Three Versions of Psalm 119:8-16

I am preaching a series called ABC, where the B stands for read the Bible richly.  So I decided to take the second 8 verse section of Psalm 119.  This Psalm is an acrostic, working through the 22 Hebrew letters.  Each verse in the 8 verse sections start with the same letter as the writer worked through the alphabet – in the case of Hebrew it is the Aleph-Beth.

The three versions below show some creativity in translation.  the NIV is more fluid, as usual. the ESV is helpful in that it retains the distinctive words of the psalm, there are at least 8 synonyms for the scriptures (word, statute, decree, etc).  In the Knox version, the translator used the English alphabet to try to reproduce the Acrostic feel. You can find the whole psalm on http://www.biblegateway.com.

 NIV

How can a young person stay on the path of purity?
By living according to your word.
10 I seek you with all my heart;
do not let me stray from your commands.
11 I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you.
12 Praise be to you, Lord;
teach me your decrees.
13 With my lips I recount
all the laws that come from your mouth.
14 I rejoice in following your statutes
as one rejoices in great riches.
15 I meditate on your precepts
and consider your ways.
16 I delight in your decrees;
I will not neglect your word.

ESV –  Beth

How can a young man keep his way pure?
By guarding it according to your word.

10 With my whole heart I seek you;
let me not wander from your commandments!

11 I have stored up your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you.

12 Blessed are you, O Lord;
teach me your statutes!

13 With my lips I declare
all the rules of your mouth.

14 In the way of your testimonies I delight
as much as in all riches.

15 I will meditate on your precepts
and fix my eyes on your ways.

16 I will delight in your statutes;
I will not forget your word.

Knox

Best shall he keep his youth unstained, who is true to thy trust.

10 Be thou the whole quest of my heart; never let me turn aside from thy              commandments.

11 Buried deep in my heart, thy warnings shall keep me clear of sin.

12 Blessed art thou, O Lord, teach me to know thy will.

13 By these lips let the awards thou makest ever be recorded.

14 Blithely as one that has found great possessions, I follow thy decrees.

15 Bethinking me still of the charge thou givest, I will mark thy footsteps.

16 Be thy covenant ever my delight, thy words kept in memory.

Click to read about the KNOX translation –

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Farewell Old Friend – NIV 84

yorickI remember back (way back) in High School when the NIV New Testament was coming out.  We had at the time the choice between the King James Version, the RSV and the NASB.  The King James was dated, though still loved.  The NASB was rather wooden, though good for study (think if it as a sturdy ancestor of the ESV).  The RSV was not acceptable among most Evangelicals because of some of its translation choices.  (“young girl” instead of “virgin” in Isaiah 7:14.)

I got the NIV NT and then the NIV whole bible later, when it came out in a nice single column format.  It was my bible for years – notes and highlights in the text.  Until finally it wore out.

Its value is a combination of faithfulness to the original text along with readability.  Some translations that were more “literal” were almost unreadable.  So the NIV was a solid bible for anyone.  People who had not grown up in the church could read it.

I am been reading for a year in the New NIV – it is generally like the Old NIV – there are some changes – the most controversial is the attempt at gender neutrality.  When a male pronoun is really a generic pronoun, they translate it generically.  “Brothers” become “brothers and sisters.”  Yet God is still “Father” and Jesus is still the “Son.”  I’m ok with that.  It is how English works these days.

I have noted a few clunks – when “they” is used for “he” it can change the meaning – from singular to plural.  Psalm 32 was an example of this kind of clunk.

However, overall I find the New NIV usable.

Yet, after a transition, the NIV – 84 has been removed from the list of choices on-line.  You can not buy a new old NIV because they are no longer printed. You can not find it on Bible Gateway, because it is no longer there.

“Alas, Old NIV, I knew you well.”

On buying a Bible

scribe.2So my old NIV – 84 fell apart.  After dawdling between the ESV and the new NIV, i chose a single column format NIV for the regular use bible.  My more literal reading companion is the ESV Literary Study Bible.  In both cases I avoided lots of notes and clutter (what is a library for?) and red letters (NEVER) and double columns (do any other books come in double columns?)

In the picture from top right (Greek NT), top left (Spanish – NVI English NIV 84 NT)

Multi View of John 19

Multi View of John 19

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

bottom left (new NIV) bottom right (ESV Literary Study bible)

 

Dividing a Chapter – John 8

oldest fragment of John

oldest fragment of John

 

Here are 7 ways to divide a chapter.

John 8 is a complex “discourse” that involves an extended interaction between Jesus and both seekers and opponents.

John Talbert in Reading John (Crossroad, 1992), sees this pattern.  In each of the five sections we have the following pattern

  1. Jesus makes a provocative statement
  2. Someone in the crowd replies or argues
  3. Jesus gives an answer.
  • v. 12-20 – I am the light of the world
  • v. 21-30 – I am going away
  • v. 31-40 – The truth will set you free
  • v. 41-50 – If God were your father
  • v. 51-59 – …will not see death.

Leon MorrisThe Gospel According to John – NICNT (Eerdmans, 1971).  He notes that this seems to happen at the conclusion of the Feast of Tabernacles (ch 7) and involved Jesus and his opponents.  (however note v. 30). He offers no reason for his breakdown except at v. 20.

  • v. 12-20 – The witness of the Father
  • v. 21-24 – Dying in sins
  • v. 25-30 – The Father and the Son
  • v. 31-47 – Slaves of Sin
  • v. 48-59 – The Glory the Father gives the Son

Philip Comfort and Wendell HawleyOpening the Gospel of John, (Tyndale, 1994) put the focus on seven “I am” statements.  (This is to be distinguished from the Messianic “I AM” Statements in other chapters.)

  • v. 12 – I am the Light of the World
  • v. 16 – I am not alone
  • v. 18 – I am the one who testifies for myself…
  • v. 23 – I am from above
  • v. 23 – I am not of this world
  • v. 24, 28 – I am he (the Christ)
  • v. 58 – I am!

Translations usually provide divisions with headings, this reflects a kind of commentary on the text.

NIV  (i.e. New NIV)

  • v. 12-20 – Dispute over Jesus’ Testimony
  • v. 21-30 – Dispute over Who Jesus is.
  • v. 31-47 – Dispute over Whose Children Jesus’ Opponents Are
  • v. 48-59 – Jesus’ Claims about himself

NIV – 84   (i.e. Old NIV)

  • v. 12-30 – The Validity of Jesus’ Testimony
  • v. 31-41 – The Children of Abraham
  • v. 42-47 – The children of the Devil
  • v. 48-59 – Jesus claims about Himself

ESV – (Bible Gateway)

  • v. 12-29 –  I am the Light of the World
  • v. 31-38 – The Truth will set you Free
  • v. 39-47 – You are of your Father the Devil
  • v. 48-59 – Before Abraham was, I Am

ESV – Literary Study Bible (Leland and Philip Ryken – Crossway, 2007).  This version of the ESV does not give headings in the text.  They provide a small box with notes before each section.  Here they note that chapter 8 is a collection of stories, they divide the text into three sections

  • v. 12-20
  • v. 21-30
  • v. 31-59
  • Then they noted that one can “comb through the passage looking for the following motifs:  1. Jesus as controversialist, 2. evidence that Jesus is Divine, 3.  The story line of hostility between religious leaders and Jesus, 4. teaching on sin and forgiveness and 5 the authority of Jesus.  It is unusual that they do not attempt to discern a larger structure.

Conclusions:

The ESV seems to agree with Talbert that the passages revolves around strong statements by Jesus, however they divide the text differently   In my version of the ESV, there is a space added at v. 20.

The variety from this small sample shows how fluid this text is.  Talbert is the most interested in internal grammatical structure.  The NIV was on to the idea of  this being a dispute, but they did not label the last section that way, which is odd because it ends with opponents wanting to throw stones at Jesus.  The Old and New NIV’s did not agree on divisions or headings.

Talbert and Hawley’s seven  “I am” statements give one a handle, but I am not sure they reflect the internal structure of the passage.  It is also confusing with the more typically cited “I AM” statements that are claims to divine status.

The Rykens give little hope of finding a structure.

For a preacher this is too much to cover in one sermon – I plan to speak on verses 12-40

Psalm 146: An observation on three Translations.

Ps 146.3 

NIV – 84

Do not put your trust in princes,
in mortal men, who cannot save.

NIV

Do not put your trust in princes,
in human beings, who cannot save.

ESV

Put not your trust in princes,
in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.

Ps 146:5

NIV – 84

Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord his God,

NIV

Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord their God.

ESV

Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord his God,

 

I am comparing two verses from Psalm 146 in the old NIV, the New NIV and the ESV.

 

  • The term “son of man” is changed to” human beings” in the New NIV and “mortal men” in the Old NIV.  You see that both try to contemporize an expression to present English.  “son of man” is awkward, and also makes some confusion with the use of that phrase as a title for Jesus.  ESV retains the word for word translation, which is clear with some thought.
  • V. 4 says that such a person goes to the earth.  In Hebrew “man” is “adam” and “earth” is “adamah”.  The pun is lost in all English translations.  However the allusion to Genesis is clear when one remembers that Adam was made of the dust of the earth.
  • The singular “he” is changed in the New NIV to a plural pronoun.  This was also the method used with several others: NRSV, NLT,  Contemporary.  One of the interesting things in Psalm 146 is the interplay between singular and plural.  “Hallelujah” which is a plural command, “Let us praise the LORD”.  The this changes quickly to the singular in verse 2 , “I will praise the Lord.”   The Beatitude of v. 5 is individual, and seems to call for a personal response.

Overall, an argument can be made for each. I benefit by comparing either NIV to the ESV.  For study with colored pencils and observation of words, I like ESV.  For readability, the NIVs are both smoother.  As one instructor said, “every translation is also a commentary.”

 

Is inclusive language “liberal”? (More on the New NIV)

In discussing the New NIV, someone called it a “liberal” translation.

First of all “liberal” has a lot of meanings.  I can mean “free” is in the Liberal Arts which are free from the constraints of censorship.  Classical Liberal political theory argued for freedom of the individual.  20th Century “Liberal” on the other hand means something like “progressive” and views government as the main agent of liberty.  Theologically Liberal comes from the early 20th Century conflict between Modernists and Fundamentalists.  Modernists went to be called Liberals and now Progressives and Fundamentalists divided between those who like that term and those who prefer Evangelical and often now simply “Jesus Follower.”

My friend meant “theologically liberal” I suppose.  There are some attempts to translate the scriptures in a totally gender neutral way.  Someone heard in a church liturgy that the Lord’s Prayer began with “Our Leader” instead of “Our Father”.  So some wish to do away with Trinitarian language of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, because of the latent “paternalism” of “Father” and “Son”.  Yet we have to say that Father does mean something different than  leader or parent.  Son is different than child and these words bear some theological weight.  These sorts of translations are a kind of re-definition or revision of the scriptures according to an external cultural value (gender egalitarianism).

Yet the New NIV (NNIV) does not go that far. It merely attempts to say generically in English what is understood to be generic in the original context.  So Romans 12:1 says “I urge you, therefore, brothers….”  Since we do not think that Romans 12 only applies to male believers, the NNIV changes “brothers” to “brothers and sisters”.    This really comes down to a preference in translation philosophy.  Should the translation stick closer to the orignal words and it is up to the reader to understand the nuances?  Or, should the translation spell out the nuances for the reader?

Also, in the 21st Century, generic usage has won out over using male gender for generic settings.  We say “humankind” not “mankind”.  We sing “Good Christians all rejoice” not “Good Christian men rejoice”.  We do not say “The sinfulness of Man”, but “the sinfulness of humanity.”  A theologically liberal “translation” might speak of the innate goodness of humanity. I once heard s speaker say “I don’t believe in original sin, but original goodness.”  That, I would agree, reflects a theologically liberal viewpoint.  but saying “humanity” instead of “man” or “mankind” does not.

So, the NNIV is not “liberal” in the sense that my friend asked.  It may not be to his taste, but let’s be careful what we mean when we speak.  It is moderately inclusive.