MEV Further Thoughts

Large Print MEV

Almost two years ago I purchased an Modern English Version (MEV) Bible. Then I provided serveral posts about the translation itself. See: MEV Part 1, MEV Part 2, MEV Readability. One of my criticisms was the size of the print: small print size is not exaggerating. I could not use it on a daily basis.

So two weeks ago I purchased the Large Print MEV. What a difference in reading! It is readable even in low light environments. I have been reading it every day for 10+ days.  The size of the Bible is not a burden to carry. I could also use regularly in teaching/preaching without the size or weight being a problem. My preference is a single column text, but MEV does not come with it. But I will happily read this large print Bible.

The bleed through seems less of a problem, not being a distraction at all (it looks worse in this photo than in real life). I also noticed that the red letter in this font works well. I am not a fan of red letter editions due to readability problems. But this is one of the best red-letter choices (font design, size, and red color choice). The paper color is a faint off-white, which makes reading easier.

MEV view of red letter text
MEV view of red letter text

There is one drawback to making it as large print, the editors removed all cross references (see above photo). In an ideal world, a little smaller print with those retained would be best. But that is a technical publishing issue.

Now that I can read it easily, I am reading it daily for devotional reading. But I am also reading to see if there are any translation issues. One stuck out immediately (reading John 1-3).

Translation Choice: Only or Only-begotten

The Greek word, μονογενής, had been traditionally translated as “only begotten” (KJV, NKJV, NAS) while many more contemporary translations have used one of the following translation choices: “one and only son” or “unique son” or “only son” (NRSV, TSV, NIV, NET, HCSB, NLT, GW).

BDAG (2000) offers this about the divided view of which is the best translation choice:

μονογενὴς υἱός is used only of Jesus. The renderings only, unique may be quite adequate for all its occurrences here

[Several scholars] prefer to regard μονογενὴς as somewhat heightened in mng. in J and 1J to only-begotten or begotten of the Only One, in view of the emphasis on γεννᾶσθαι ἐκ θεοῦ (J 1:13 al.); in this case it would be analogous to πρωτότοκος (Ro 8:29; Col 1:15 al.)

NET has an translation note:

Or “of the unique one.” Although this word is often translated “only begotten,” such a translation is misleading, since in English it appears to express a metaphysical relationship. The word in Greek was used of an only child (a son [Luke 7:12, 9:38] or a daughter [Luke 8:42]). It was also used of something unique (only one of its kind) such as the mythological Phoenix (1 Clem. 25:2). From here it passes easily to a description of Isaac (Heb 11:17 and Josephus, Ant., 1.13.1 [1.222]) who was not Abraham’s only son, but was one-of-a-kind because he was the child of the promise. Thus the word means “one-of-a-kind” and is reserved for Jesus in the Johannine literature of the NT. While all Christians are children of God, Jesus is God’s Son in a unique, one-of-a-kind sense. The word is used in this way in all its uses in the Gospel of John (1:14, 1:18, 3:16, and 3:18).

Since MEV follow the KJV text base and generally its translation choices, I discovered it wasn’t as clear-cut as I thought.

μονογενής in MEV

The Greek word appears 9 times in the NT. I am comparing MEV choice in translation to NKJV since they share a common heritage

Luke 7:12 

NKJV: a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother;

MEV: a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother

Luke 8:42

NKJV: for he had an only daughter about twelve years of age, and she was dying.

MEV: for he had an only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she was dying.

Luke 9:38 

NKJV: saying, “Teacher, I implore You, look on my son, for he is my only child.”

MEV: saying, “Teacher, I beg You, look upon my son, for he is my only child.

John 1:14  

NKJV: and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

MEV and we saw His glory, the glory as the only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:18 

NKJV  The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.

MEV  The only Son, who is at the Father’s side, has made Him known

John 3:16 

NKJV For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son,

MEV For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son

John 3:18 

NKJV because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

MEV because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God

Heb 11:17 

NKJV he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son [Isaac],

MEV he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son [Isaac]

1 John 4:9 

NKJV  God has sent His only begotten Son into the world.

MEV God sent His only begotten Son into the world

The two that stuck out in mind are John 1:14, and 18. Why change in those two verses to “only Son” and yet in John 3:16, 18 use “only begotten Son”? It would seem that when dealing with the same author and there are four verses that deal with the same concept, and Greek word, why not translate all four the same way “only begotten” as in NKJV, or “one and only” as in most modern translations.

I would question both NKJV and MEV in translating Heb. 11:17 as “only begotten.” It would be more consistent with the translation decisions in the Lukan passages listed above.

More Thoughts

Overall, I am still impressed with the translation choices. Even a small change in John 1:14 seems like a positive using “and we saw His glory” rather than “and we beheld His glory.”

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Law and Gospel Intro

C. F. W. Walther had taught at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. But he also gave evening lectures of a more practical nature. In the fall of 1884 he began a series of lectures on Law and Gospel, not doctrinal lectures, but a practical encouragement to future pastors. His words are as timeless today as when he first gave the lectures. The following is his introductory comments.

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FIRST EVENING LECTURE.

(September 12, 1884.)

My Dear Friends: —

If you are to become efficient teachers in our churches and schools, it is a matter of indispensable necessity that you have a most minute knowledge of all doctrines of the Christian revelation. However, having achieved such knowledge, you have not yet attained all that is needed. What is needed over and above your knowledge of the doctrines is that you know how to apply them correctly. You must not only have a clear apperception of the doctrines in your intellect, but all of them must have entered deeply into your heart and there manifested their divine, heavenly power. All these doctrines must have become so precious, so valuable, so dear to you, that you cannot but profess with a glowing heart in the words of Paul: “We believe, therefore we have spoken,” and in the words of all the apostles: “We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” You have indeed not seen these things with your physical eyes or heard them with your physical ears, like the apostles, but you ought to have an experience of them through your spiritual eyes and ears.

While in my dogmatic lectures I aim to ground you in every doctrine and make you certain of it, I have designed these evening lectures on Fridays for making you really practical theologians. I wish to talk the Christian doctrine into your very hearts, enabling you in your future calling to come forward as living witnesses with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power. I do not want you to stand in your pulpits like lifeless statues, but to speak with confidence and with cheerful courage offer help where help is needed.

 

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If you have not read Walther’s Proper Distinction between Law and Gospel, you can read it here:

Walther’s Law and Gospel 

Other posts about Law and Gospel:

When to confront…when to comfort

What does it mean…to be Lutheran?

Puzzle: Living under the Law or living in the Gospel

Trinity Sunday— Athanasian Creed

Trinity Sunday and Athanasian Creed

This Sunday is Trinity Sunday in the liturgical calendar. For most Christians who follow such a calendar, it means that we speak together the Athanasian Creed. For some that might conjure images of drudgery, reciting words, upon words, upon words. Some would like to sit down, and snooze while the rest drone on.

But it need not be that way. In our congregation, we use the responsive reading form that CPH put out a few years ago. It breaks the creed into sections that become antiphonal (you can look up that word), and the responsive sections break into male and female responses. Excellent resource, CPH Athanasian Creed

Not again!?!

Over the past six decades I have heard sermons preached on Trinity Sunday that try to “explain” the Trinity, without much success. The apple (core, meat, skin), the three-leaf clover, and especially H2O (water, steam, ice), and the list goes on. Long ago I gave up on this approach. Each one might offer a glimpse into one small aspect of the Trinity. But most people walk away with a modalist view of the Trinity (one God taking three forms) rather than the Biblical view of the Trinity.

So a sermon on the Trinity? Obviously any of the texts chosen for the day can be used. If we preach one of those texts, let’s be honest and preach the text, not trying to force it into a doctrinal presentation of the Trinity. Likewise if we preach on the Trinity, let’s be honest and do so as a doctrinal confessing point, rather than trying to maneuver a Biblical text to fit what we want to preach. I think as we keep these two approaches in mind, we can avoid the “not again” problems of Trinity Sunday. Rather we can faithfully peach the Trinity without trying to explain the unexplainable.

Breath of Fresh Air

What makes the Athanasian Creed refreshing? It is not meant as a common sense explanation or science explanation of the Trinity. Rather the creed is conprehensive, but is confessed, not explained. Sometimes the speaking of the creed is far better than trying to explain something that is unexplainable. In the Church today I think we need more confessing of the faith in the creeds than explanations or dissections and arguing over the creeds. Note: there is a place to hold such doctrinal discussion. But worship is not the place for such discussions.

I think in the grander scheme of history of the Christian Church symbols of the Trinity have served the Church well rather than explanations. Thus, the designs used on the paraments, stoles, etc. function as visual reminders of the truth of the Trinity and what is confessed, not explanations.

Let’s believe, teach, and confess this wonderful creed, not only on Trinity Sunday but whenever necessary and helpful.

You can find the three ecumenical creeds here: Ecumenical Creeds

Tools for Interpreting the Bible

I wrote an article, “Foundations for Bible Study” last summer for the American Lutheran Theological Journal. I laid out some key foundational issues that need to be addressed by pastors when teaching the Bible. But I have found this can also be helpful for lay people. You can download the PDF for free:

http://www.aalcjournal.com/past-issues/archives/11-2014

This morning, Jordan Cooper interviewed me about the article.

http://justandsinner.com/podcast/tools-for-hermeneutics-with-rich-shields/

 

Four Translations—Gender in translation

Want to start an interesting and heated discussion on Bible translation? Try to discuss how to deal with gender in translation. The recent past had been governed by the thought that the singular pronoun “he” (and “him”) could be used for referring to males only or to a human in general. That is the way I grew up, never giving it much thought.

But times have changed. Now, when a speaker or writer (translator) uses “he” many hear/read only male specific referent. Some may not like it; some may even demand: “that isn’t right.” Realistically in the present context, we would be foolish to ignore the need to address this issue. I cannot rehash the entire debate, but wanted to give a couple references that do address the issue of gender in translation:

Dr. Rod Decker Evaluation of NIV 2011

Gender-inclusive pronouns and contemporary usage

Gender-neutral language, with special reference to NIV 2011

There are two main issues involved in this discussion:

1) Does the original language text (Hebrew or Greek) give us enough information to distinguish between male specific and human in general?

2) How can that be expressed in English without contorting the English language?

Genesis 1:26-27

In Hebrew, the main nouns are אָדָ֛ם (adam) and אֱנ֥וֹשׁ (enosh). Should they always be translated “man” or is it legitimate to translate in some contexts “human” (or even “person”)? For the male specific word, Hebrew has זָכָ֥ר (zahar) and for female/woman נְקֵבָ֖ה (neqēbah). In Genesis 1:26-27 (NAS) we see three of these words used:

Then God said, “Let Us make man אָדָ֛ם (adam)  in Our image, according to Our likeness; … God created man אָדָ֛ם (adam) in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male זָכָ֥ר (zahar) and female  נְקֵבָ֖ה (neqēbah) He created them.

Let’s see how the four translations handle this:

NIV 2011

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, …
So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.

ESV

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

HCSB

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.”…
So God created man in His own image;
He created him in the image of God;
He created them male and female.

GW

Then God said, “Let us make humans in our image, in our likeness.”…
So God created humans in his image.
In the image of God he created them.
He created them male and female.

ESV and HCSB follow the more traditional approach, namely using “man” as generic, as well as the corresponding “he/him” pronoun, except in the last line.

NIV 2011 and GW opt for the change to the gender neutral “humankind” as a collective or “humans” as a plural. Then both use the plural to translate a singular. To me, this is not helpful, but I do not dismiss either translation, they are usable and communicate approrpiately. However, in some texts, this change from singular to plural may change the dynamics of the specific passage (i.e. see how NLT handles Psalm 1:-2).

Psalm 8:4 and Hebrews 2:6

Another passage has significant messianic/christological implications: Psalm 8:4, using two different nouns, comparing it to how it is quoted and translated in Hebrews 2:6, which is applied to Jesus Christ:

What is man (אֱנ֥וֹשׁ  enosh) that You take thought of him,
And the son of man (בֶן־אָ֝דָ֗ם ben-adam “son of man”) that You care for him?

NIV 2011

what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?

What is mankind that you are mindful of them,
a son of man that you care for him?

ESV

what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?

What is man, that you are mindful of him,
or the son of man, that you care for him?

HCSB

what is man that You remember him,
the son of man that You look after him?

What is man that You remember him,
or the son of man that You care for him?

GW

what is a mortal that you remember him
or the Son of Man that you take care of him?

What is a mortal that you should remember him,
or the Son of Man that you take care of him?

In this case, NIV 2011 seems the most awkard and least effective, although it is consistent in using the same method in both pasages. Notice that the traditional English following the Hebrew number has “son of man” (singular). NIV 2011 changes that to plural “human beings,” but then in Hebrews 2 translates it as singular, but indefinite singular “a son of man.”

ESV and HCSB follow the traditional translations, “man”… “son of man.”

GW offers a glimpse into being a cross between the two approaches, and seems to be effective, even though “a mortal” is a little unexpected by traditional mind set. “A mortal” reflects generic singular quite well, and “the Son of Man” as specific; GW does the same in both verses.

Unless one is absolutely committed to the traditional wording, in these two cases, GW seems to be the best translation of the two verses. NIV 2011 is clearly inconsistent and the least desirable of the four. Interestingly, NLT se is similar to NIV 2011 and less than satisfactory for a translation.

ESV 2 Cor. 9:5

One of my concerns over the years has been accurate Bible translations, which are also functional within a liturgical environment with all that such requirements entail. Thus, contrary to many who post about Bible translations, I am not necessarily opposed to “biblish” in an English translation. These are English words or phrases that are derived from other languages, Hebrew, Greek and Latin, and which retain a similar structure or syntax of the original language. But even more important, with biblish words there is a continuity with the faith expression within the church, and learning the faith includes learning some of these key terms in the context of liturgy and faith development.

On the other hand, if a translation uses a word that is not natural English nor does it reflect the church’s liturgical language (not biblish), then the translation has missed the goal on both counts. The ESV translators struggled to maintain the language continuity with the KJV tradition, an admirable goal. But it also includes terms and phrases that fail miserably in both areas. This passage from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians illustrates the use of a word that fails in several ways.

2 Corinthians 9:5

So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance for the gift you have promised, so that it may be ready as a willing gift, not as an exaction.

How often is the word “exaction” used in natural English? Seldom, if ever. Is this a biblish example? It is not, because it carries no church or liturgical weight.

The problem is compounded because if a person does not know the word but tries to get the meaning from the root, “exact” the person will likely consider it related to how accurate something is (For instance, “Is it exactly 12 inches long?”).

Finally, from an oral perspective, the ESV rendering fails; the word does not sound right when spoken. In fact, it was when I read this text during our nightly devotions last night that I noticed how awkward this word is.

So, what’s the solution? Each of these has acceptable wording:

TNIV/NLT: not as one grudgingly given.

NRSV/HCSB/REB:/NAB and not as an extortion.

GW: and it won’t be something you’re forced to do.

NET: and not as something you feel forced to do

NJB: and not an imposition.

NAS95: and not affected by covetousness.

The NAS95 is probably the least likely of these alternatives, but still better than ESV. This is one example of where the ESV should have updated the RSV translation.

Technical Terms – 2 (Day of the LORD – DOL)

Several studies have examined the DOL, each with their own particular contribution. In his seminal work, Ladislav Cerny observed that the DOL study must eventually encompass both the origin and content of the DOL [Ladislav Cerny, The Day of Yahweh and Some Relevant Problems (Prague: Nakladem Filosoficke Fakulty University Karlovy, 1948), vii.]. Since 1948 the major focus of scholarly endeavors has been on the origin of the DOL. While Mowinckel dominated the scene with his contention that the DOL grew out of the cultic festival celebration, Gerhard von Rad broke new ground with his claim that the DOL emerged from the holy war tradition [Gerhard von Rad, “The Origin of the Concept of the Day of Yahweh,” Journal of Semitic Studies 4 (April 1959), 97–108]. A. Joseph Everson summarized the main proposals for the origin of the concept in his article in 1974. In addition to these, he noted F. Charles Fensham’s theory that the covenant tradition (treaty-curses) formed the basis of the DOL. Meir Weiss advocated the theophany motif. Despite the value of these studies, they fell short, as evidenced by Everson’s critique. “All of these origin studies of the tradition are confronted, however, by the problematic fact that specific locution of the Day of Yahweh are found only in the writings of the classical prophets and in the book of Lamentations [A. Joseph Everson, “The Days of Yahweh,” Journal of Biblical Literature 93 (September 1974), 330].

Conscious of Everson’s critique, most scholars since then have concentrated their studies on the prophetic writings, most often limiting themselves to those passages that specifically contain the exact phrase, DOL (16 total). Those passages are: Isaiah 13:6; 13:9; Ezekiel 13:5; Joel 1:15; 2:1; 2:11; 3:4; 4:14; Amos 5:18 (2 x); 5:20; Obadiah 15; Zephaniah 1:7; 1:14 (2x); and Malachi 3:23 [Chapter and verse citations are according to the Hebrew text, BHS]. Yet as Cerny, Everson, and Yair Hoffmann concede that there are many other phrases which are very close in form and must be included [Yair Hoffmann, “The Day of the Lord as a Concept and Term in the Prophetic Literature,” Zeitschrift für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 93 (1981), 37–9].

Appropriately, then, expressions such as “the day of Yahweh’s wrath,” “the day of Midian,” and “the day of battle” fit within this study. The most frequent phrase, “in that day” (בַיּוֹמ ההוּא), which occurs ~200 times in the prophets alone, expands the field of study dramatically. I disagree with those who follow P. A. Munch, [The Expression Bajjom Hahu: Is It a Terminus Technicus? (Oslo, 1936)] who claimed that it was essentially a connective. The plural of the phrase, “in those/these days.” also falls within the scope of such an investigation. Even terms such as “time” (עֵת) and “year” (שָׁנָה) apply toward the development of the DOL concept. Everson, followed by Hoffmann and others, claims that “it is methodologically more difficult and dangerous to include such references in the basic field of evidence” [Everson, 331. Hoffmann, 39]. While I agree that it is more difficult to expand the field, I contend that it is methodologically dangerous to not include these other references.

Thus, if the DOL is both a technical term and a broad concept, a prophet may develop his understanding of the concept by using related expressions, especially “in that day.” Another prophet may express the concept, describing events associated with the DOL without specifically mentioning the DOL (i.e. Micah). In both cases the prophets would be concerned with the DOL. This approach seems more consonant with the DOL origin and would more accurately reflect the prophetic understanding of the DOL. Critical for further study (another major paper) is the study of DOL must take into account the given time period. For instance, Hosea and Micah, normally forgotten in DOL studies, offer additional textual territory for study and development. The combined study of these eighth century prophets should then be the basis on which to study later prophets, particularly Zephaniah and Joel.

Translations of Yom Yahweh in the Later Prophets

Isaiah 13:6
Isaiah 13:9
Ezekiel 13:5
Joel 1:15
Joel 2:1
Joel 2:11
Joel 3:4 (2:31 Eng)
Joel 4:14 (3:14 Eng)
Amos 5:18
Amos 5:18
Amos 5:20
Obadiah 15
Zephaniah 1:7
Zephaniah 1:14
Zephaniah 1:14
Malachi 3:23 (4:5 Eng)

The following translations consistently used “day of the LORD” as the translation for Yom Yahweh in all 16 passages:

NKJV, NAS95, ESV, NRSV, HCSB, TNK, NIV, TNIV, GW, so also REB and NLT2 except these omit any translation at Zeph. 1:14 [2nd])

Interestingly, HCSB used “day of the LORD” in Isa. 13:6, 9, and Ezek. 13:5, and in all other occurrences used the capital letter D to highlight it: “Day of the LORD”. This suggests that the translators wanted to insure that the readers understood the phrase as a technical term (of some type).

NET varied its translation of Yom Yahweh, by using the possessive form “the LORD’s day” occasionally (Isa. 13:6, 9, Amos 5:18 [2nd], Amos 5:20; Zeph. 1:14 [both].

CEV showed the greatest variation, and no seeming consistency. Thus, “day of the LORD” is used only at Joel 2:1, Joel 4:14, and Zeph. 1:14 [2nd]. Otherwise, it translated the phrase as:

“day” – Isa. 13:6, Joel 2:11, Joel 3:4, Amos 5:18 [1st], 5:20, Obad 15, Zeph. 1:14 [2nd], and Mal. 3:23
“time” – Isa. 13:9, Amos 5:18 [2nd], and Zeph. 1:7
“soon” – Joel 1:15
untranslated – Isa. 13:9

Conclusion:

Such a survey suggests that Yom Yahweh had indeed become a technical term in the prophetic literature in the original languages. The evidence above also shows that English translations consider it a technical term by not varying its formula “day of the LORD”, except for CEV.