Dan B. Wallace on CT: woman caught in adultery – John 7:53 – 8:11

A recent online story (here) by Christianity Today (CT) is about the woman caught in adultery. Daniel B.Wallace, a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, and founder of the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM) (Wallace’s account here), was recently interviewed by CT (CT interview here) about his trip to Tirana, Albania where his team photographed the Greek New Testament manuscripts housed in the National Archive. Forty-seven manuscripts were photographed and 45 of these have never been photographed before so this is a major and recent undertaking and will affect future textual criticism. After they returned home with thousands of photographs, they discovered something interesting. Three of the manuscript completely lacked the periscope adulterae, or the story of woman caught in adultery (John 7:53-8:11). This itself is not a recent discovery but this does add more proof that it was not in the original Gospel of John. Most manuscripts have it but the earliest and best manuscripts do not.

One of Dan Wallace’s account of a manuscript is quite funny; he said:

“One of the Albanian manuscripts that lacked the story was ‘fixed’ by a later scribe who hastily stitched a sheet of paper to the following parchment page, scribbling the text of the pericope adulterae on the paper! Even though most manuscripts of the fourth gospel have the story, the earliest and best manuscripts do not. That at least four of the Albanian manuscripts lacked the story suggested that perhaps they came from a decent line of transmission.”

This leads us to many difficult questions on textual criticism and canonicity. Could Jesus have actually had this encounter with the woman caught in adultery? Could it have been transmitted orally early on but was written down later? Even if the story is not inspired and was not in the original Greek manuscripts should it be left out of the bible? Or should we continue to leave it in but include a note that it is not contained many of the earliest manuscripts? If it is not inspired and we leave it in, we can then no longer claim that our bible is 100% totally inspired. So what’s the solution? If we include a note, as is done in our modern translations, we might be able to get around that. But this would still mean that our current bibles with 66 books are no different from bibles with the apocryphal books containing uninspired scripture.

Here is another interview of Dan B. Wallace by Andy Cheung at Midlands, UK.

Mediating translation comparison #1: TNIV vs HCSB vs NAB – Romans 4

This series is devoted to comparing translations that fall into the intermediate range of word-for-word and thought-for-thought. The comparison between mediating translations will begin with Romans, ch. 4. I have unexpectedly found that I liked the flow of the International Standard Version (ISV) so I have included it in this chapter comparison as a fourth option. (An online version of the New American Bible (NAB) can be found online at www.usccb.org. The ISV can be downloaded at www.isv.org).

Romans 4:1

What then shall we say that Abraham, the forefather of us Jews, discovered in this matter?

What then can we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found?

What then can we say that Abraham found, our ancestor according to the flesh?

What, then, are we to say about Abraham, our human ancestor?

v.1: the TNIV renders κατα σαρκα (kata sarka, according to the flesh) as “of us Jews.” This is not a literal translations but it is suppose to add clarification that Paul is referring to the physical descendants of Abraham. Even though a Jew may not necessarily have to descend from a blood line of physical descendants in order to be Jewish (since one may also be an adopted Jew), the original Greek text is speaking primarily of direct physical descendants by blood. I would rather it be translated as such. [ edited & moved here: Regarding v.1, I feel the TNIV flows best but I prefer the HCSB’s rendering because it is more accurate. The NAB is also accurate but it sounds a very awkward. ]

v.1: the ISV( and RSV) disregarded the significance of the word ευρηκεναι (ehurēkenai), which means to find, obtain or discover. Both the NRSV and ESV also render this verse very well but translate ehurēkenai as “gained.” “What then are we to say was gained by Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh?” (NRSV).

Romans 4:7-8

Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.

Blessed are those whose sin the Lord will never count against them.

How happy
those whose lawless acts are forgiven and whose sins are covered!

How happy the man whom the Lord will never charge with sin!

Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven and whose sins are covered.

Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not record.”

How blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven and whose sins are covered!

How blessed is the person whose sins the Lord will never charge against him!

v.7-8: the HCSB takes a different approach. It provides a translation of: “How happy those” (HCSB) rather than “Blessed are those” (TNIV). It is still correct but it doesn’t follow the traditional and familiar rendering of “blessed.” “To be blessed” can have a broad meaning. For instance, to be happy is also to be blessed, but one who is blessed is not necessarily happy. One can be blessed but simultaneously feel unhappy and content. I think I prefer the traditional rendering of “Blessed are those.”

Romans 4:16

Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring–not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all.

This is why the promise is by faith, so that it may be according to grace, to guarantee it to all the descendants–not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of Abraham’s faith. He is the father of us all

For this reason, it depends on faith, so that it may be a gift, and the promise may be guaranteed to all his descendants, not to those who only adhere to the law but to those who follow the faith of Abraham, who is the father of all of us,

Therefore, the promise is based on faith, so that it may be a matter of grace and may be guaranteed for all of Abraham’s descendants—not only for those who were given the law, but also for those who share the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.

v.16: the TNIV renders κατα χαριν (kata karin/charis) as “by grace”. The HCSB: “according to grace;” the NAB: “a gift”, and NJB: “as a free gift”. Whether χάρις (charis) is translated as grace or as gift, it is still are correct. Protestants, however, are so used to the term grace that sometimes we forget what it really means. In the end, it may boil down to one’s theology because the protestant view sees justification by grace as being accounted as righteous, or imputed as righteous by those who believe. The believer takes a more active part in believing, thus, its rendering lends itself better to a protestant understanding of justification. The Roman Catholic view sees justification as one made righteous by an infusion of grace by God and doesn’t necessarily depend on the active faith of the believer, thus, “free gift” lends itself better to a Catholic understanding of justification. The ISV uses “a matter of grace” which connotes the idea of concerning or pertaining to grace. It’s still technically correct but I prefer the rendering of “by grace” (TNIV) or “according to grace” (HCSB).

The TNIV, as is the ISV, is more apt to add words that are non-existent in the original Greek to clarify who the pronoun is referring to. The first mention of “Abraham” was added here in v.16 in order to add clarity to the pronoun “his”. I prefer the HCSB’s rendering of this verse.

Romans 4:19

Without weakening in his faith
, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead–since he was about a hundred years old–and that Sarah’s womb was also dead.

He considered his own body to be already dead (since he was about 100 years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb, without weakening in the faith.

He did not weaken in faith
when he considered his own body as (already) dead (for he was almost a hundred years old) and the dead womb of Sarah.

His faith did not weaken
when he thought about his own body (which was already as good as dead now that he was about a hundred years old) or about Sarah’s inability to have children,

v.19: The HCSB’s placement of “without weakening in the faith” at the end of the sentence makes it sound awkward. The TNIV’s “Without weakening in his faith” also sounds awkward. Furthermore, “he faced the fact” is too colloquial, and maybe even, inaccurate. κατανοέω (katanoeō), which means to perceive, discern, understand or consider, sounds a long way off from “faced the fact” (TNIV). I don’t doubt that Abraham did face the fact that he was old but I think to understand or consider is more accurate. The NAB flows and sounds better than either the TNIV or HCSB even though it is most literal here in this verse. However, I feel that the ISV flows best here. However, ISV’s rendering of “Sarah’s inability to have children” doesn’t sit well with me because it did not translate Sarah’s “dead womb.”

I feel that the NRSV, a formal rendering, trumps them all in this verse. “He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb” (NRSV).

Romans 4:25

He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.

He was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.

who was handed over for our transgressions and was raised for our justification.

He was sentenced to death because of our sins and raised to life to justify us.

v.25: the TNIV, ISV, and NJB added “to death” and “to life” in order to add clarity. If one doesn’t read the whole passage or the rest of the bible to understand the context, one might not know that Jesus was delivered over to death and raised to life. Is this necessary? I don’t know. It’s debatable. In certain circumstances this may be useful, but in others, it is unnecessary.

Search for an mediating translation: TNIV vs HCSB vs NAB

At the end of my last series “Search for a formal translation”, I mentioned that I will be blogging on translations that take an intermediate approach between formal equivalence and functional equivalence. I have decided that this new series will compare the TNIV, HCSB, and the NAB. Intermediate equivalence is not a technically correct term but I will use this term because it best describes my intent to compare translations that stand between word-for-word and thought-for-thought translation philosophy.

I have also seriously considered using the International Standard Version (ISV) but this translation is not yet complete so I will hold off from using it for now (but I will refer to it from time to time). I have also considered the Revised English Bible (REB) but it still tends to lean toward a purely dynamic translation philosophy so I will not include this translation. Another factor in not using the REB is that it is not a popular translation in North America. It is more widely read in the U.K. I have never seen it sold on the bookshelves of any bible bookstore, or at least the ones I have been to. I wanted to do a comparison of bibles that are widely read in North America. Perhaps, it was for this reason that my third option defaulted to the NAB. Originally, I did not even intend to have a third option .

The Today’s New International Version (TNIV) has made improvements over its predecessor, the NIV. These improvements are changes based on biblical scholarship in other areas other than gender-inclusive ones. Even though the NIV still seems to greatly over-shadow the TNIV, I believe the TNIV will be better received by evangelicals in the near future. It will take some time for evangelicals to accept the TNIV’s gender-inclusive language and overcome the criticism it has faced for being gender-inclusive. This criticism is unfair but this should be expected because the NIV has such a huge readership of conservative evangelicals. It is always difficult to come out from under the shadows of a behemoth.

The Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) is more formal than the TNIV but still falls within the intermediate range of word-for-word and thought-for-thought. I have to admit that my personal preference is the TNIV but I’d have to say that the HCSB is also very reliable. It is a very good translation because its scholarship is very good. Like the NIV, HCSB translators started the translation from scratch. Any translation that starts from scratch deserves recognition for the hard work put into this huge task. The work is enormous and I applaud its translators because they deserve it.

One may wonder why I decided to include the New American Bible (NAB). The market size of the NAB is not large in comparison to the NIV. It is probably a little larger than the NRSV, but not by much. It is read by an overwhelming majority of Roman Catholics, perhaps even 90%, within North America. Interestingly enough, the New Jerusalem Bible is most popular with Catholics outside of North America.

I believe intermediate to functional equivalent translations will always be more popular than formal translations. The ordinary bible reader will prefer reading a translation they can understand with relative ease. Hopefully, after by the end of this series, one may be able to see the differences between the various intermediate translations.

Blogs added on New Epistles blogroll

I am usually slow at adding blogs to my blogroll but most recently, I have added some blogs to my blogroll—all great bloggers of scripture or theology. These include:

Revelation is Real by Tony Siew, author of “The War between the Two Beasts and the Two Witnesses: A Chiastic Reading of Revelation 11:1-14:5”, and New Testament lecturer at Trinity Theological College, Singapore.

MetaCatholic by an Anglican priest who’s a very intelligent blogger.

Participatory Bible Study by Henry Neufeld, a writer and lecturer, president of a bible school.

Lingamish by David Ker, a bible translator-missionary and pastor.

Thoughts and Meditation by Mike Aubrey, a student of linguistics and he hopes to work in bible translation.

And also of honorable mention are other great bloggers whom I have added on my blogroll in the recent past (or older past) are:

Connecting by TC, a fellow pastor in ministry and a true scholar of the biblical Greek language.

Discipulus Scripturae by Nathan Stitts, a graduate-level university student who is working hard to learn Greek on his own. Way to go Nathan!

Bible Design & Binding by Mark Bertrand, who blogs about bibles and posts photos that bible-lovers will drool over.

FLDS case of polygamy in Texas

In this recent scandal that has been released into the media, polygamy will never been seen the same again. The exposure of this largest case of sexual abuse outranks all other previous cases of polygamy. I have never fully understood polygamy, but when it is seen in this light, I will never see sexual abuse in the same light again. This even trumps the infamous cases of sexual abuse of young boys by catholic priests.

What makes this case so unique is the sheer number of women and children who have been abused by a few men. It is serious, humorous, sickening, and shocking– all at the same time. I don’t know whether I should laugh or cry but what I do know is that polygamous relationships will be seen in increasingly negative light by more people than ever.

Previously, I did not even know what the difference was between LDS and FLDS. Members in the FLDS church will undoubtedly be embarrassed by this case. Rape and sexual abuse of under-aged girls is something that I think even FLDS would not condone, or at least, I hope not. It is very sad that these women have not been educated and have been brainwashed by the time they reach puberty. It is trap without escape because they think marriage of their teenage daughters to the same man is the will of God. They do not think there is anything wrong with their own 16-year old daughters marrying their own husband.

I am surprised that it took this long for this case to come to light. I hope that these women can break out of this trap and begin to realize that their lifestyle is not normal and is unhealthy.

Luther’s German translation of the New Testament

I wish continue to blog about the history of the New Testament and continue with Luther’s German translation. Luther was a radical for his own time. His views of the bible and of theology was reason enough for the Roman Catholic Church’s high authorities to want to take his life. In 1415, the Church burned John Huss alive at the stake for his heresy. Thank God this is not the case today. Luther began translating parts of the scriptures in 1517. In 1521, Luther was kidnapped by five armed riders while returning to Wittenberg from the Diet of Worms. They kidnapped him and brought him to Wartburg Castle to keep him safe from harm. For 10 months, from May 4, 1521 to March 1, 1522, Luther’s hideout was Wartburg Castle. (You have to see the movie or if you prefer, read the book). This was the place where he would translate the New Testament into German. No one knew where he was in hiding and when he did leave the castle, he grew a beard, dressed up as a knight and called himself “Knight George” (Junker Jorge).

Luther wanted to make the Word of God available to all of the German people so he translated the New Testament from the original Greek into easy‑to‑understand German. He completed the translation from Erasmus’ text which was a special new edition of the New Testament in Greek with a Latin translation. It was said that he completed the New Testament in three months. Three months is not much time to translate an entire New Testament. He must have had to work extremely hard.

There were only 5,000 copies of the first edition of the New Testament (printed in Wittenberg by Melchior Lotter). Each copy costs no less than 1 ½ gulden (I am not sure what this would be equivalent to in today’s dollars). Luther did not make a financial profit from the translation. To make a profit would have been unthinkable for Luther.

This bible became the people’s bible and it helped shape the common German language. This bible translated into the contemporary language of the common people did a great thing for the German language because it unified the various German dialects into one. It was used as the norm for the next four hundred years (much like the King James Version was in the English-speaking world). I think it would be safe to assume that today’s translations in modern languages around the world will also unify hundreds of dialects around the world.

After completing the New Testament, he continued translating the Old Testament. His colleagues at the University assisted him in this endeavor. By 1534 he completed the translationf the entire German Bible.

Martin Luther on bible translation: in the common language of the people

The importance of bibles being translated into the language of the common people (or the vernacular) cannot be better expressed than through the words of Dr. Rev. Martin Luther, the Reformer. The Latin Vulgate (translated by Jerome in 405 CE) was the Bible used in the Western Church. For 1,000 years after the Vulgate, bible translation was not an important activity in the Church. Luther felt that Latin kept the people distant from the truth, so the language of the bible should be simplified for all people to understand. He said:

“One may not ask the Latin language how to speak German…one must ask mothers in the home, children on the street, the common man at the market, and watch carefully how they speak. After that one may translate. Then those who read will understand you and know that you are speaking German with them” (WA30, II, 637).

Do we have this today in our English translations? I think so. We have our functional equivalent translations, even children’s bibles. I think Luther would be pleased with the T/NIV, NLT, God’s Word, New Century Version, and Good News Translation. Luther felt that the common people should be able to read the scriptures for themselves in the most contemporary language of the day.

“Your reader must be able to read God’s Word “as though it were written yesterday” (WA12, 444).

Though sometimes, I wonder about the Message bible. Okay, so we know that the King James Version is outdated. But how do we tell this to the King James-only crowd? I think we can just quote Luther. Luther wanted to communicate God’s word clearly. Therefore, it was necessary for Luther to translated Hebrew, Greek, and Latin language into the German language, the language of the people. But today, the KJV-only readers have to translate Elizabethan English into modern day English. I don’t think Luther would have approved of the KJV for today’s contemporary readers.

“In translation you cannot speak German with a Greek or Hebrew tongue” (Open Letter Concerning Translation).

He wanted the scriptures in easy to understand German and in terms of an accurate rendering of the original meaning.

“I endeavored to make Moses so German that no one would suspect he was a Jew” (Open Letter Concerning Translation).

Would some of our formal equivalent translations qualify? I wonder if the RSV or NASB (1977) would meet Luther’s standard? Our functional equivalent translations certainly do.

Cochlaeus, one of Luther’s bitterest opponents, said:

“Even shoemakers and women become so absorbed in the study of Luther’s German New Testament that they are able to carry on discussions with doctors of theology” (Four Hundred Years, Dau, p. 115).

Moreover, he felt that the Confessions and scripture should be the source and norm of all religious thought and doctrine. The bible was the natural vehicle for inculcating piety into the hearts and lives of the people. Moreover, bible translation should not be taken lightly but should be done in all godly reverence.

“Translation is not an art that everyone can practice. It requires a right, pious, faithful, diligent, God fearing, experienced practical heart” (WA30, II, 640).

Luther had a high view of Scripture and sola scriptura was the sole rule and norm of faith. Justification by grace through faith in Christ Jesus influenced how Luther translated the German bible. Jesus Christ took our place under the law, and became all things for us so that God might fully redeem us. Luther felt that scripture needed to reveal “all things for us” just as Christ became fully incarnated in order to serve and to save humankind.

Search for a formal translation: NASB vs ESV vs NRSV — a conclusion

After blogging on this series on the three formal equivalent translations, I cannot say there is a clear #1 winner because it all depends on what a person wants in a translation. This may be a post-modern approach but I do respect each person’s preference. All three translations are very good but I do not want to minimize any of their strengths so I cannot prescribe a “best translation”. I believe it is a subjective and personal decision because each person wants something different in a translation.

The NASB is definitely the most literal, the NRSV is the least literal of the three literal translations, and the ESV is somewhere in-between. If one wants the most literal word-for-word precision (in alignment with the Greek) and do not mind the choppiness in reading, plus a conservative theological outlook, then the NASB is best. If you want a fairly high degree of literalness but without the awkward choppiness of the NASB, and a conservative evangelical theological outlook, then the ESV is the best. If you want a fairly literal translation and even greater readability than the ESV, plus gender-neutral language, then the NRSV is best. So here is my individual conclusion to each of the three excellent translations.

What surprised me is that there have been several times when the NASB has superfluously added a word or two to the text where it does not exist in the original language. But then, the NRSV does this too. The amount of meticulous translation work done on the NASB is incredible. From a detailed perspective, it is definitely the most literal in the majority of cases; and overall, from a broader perspective, it is still the most literal of the three. It is excellent for careful exegetical bible studies. The NASB has a stellar reputation for very good reasons. It is literal yet accurate. The literalness in the NASB is in itself, its own strength, and at the same time, it is also its own weakness. Literalness makes it less readable, but nevertheless, it is still readable to the average person. This is why it has been the formal equivalent translation of choice for conservatives/evangelicals who have a high view of scripture and who do a lot of exegetical bible studies. It has been underestimated by mainline and secular academic settings in the past, and this is too bad. In my opinion, it deserves greater respect than what it has received. In conservative-evangelical seminaries, the NASB is still highly regarded.

The ESV seems to be the leanest in terms of wordiness—that is, it seems to use fewer words than the NASB and NRSV to say the same thing. Even though it is less wordy, it amazes me that it is also more readable than the NASB. In future revisions, if they could get rid of its inverted negatives, the ESV would be even more readable. The ESV is second in literalness after the NASB. This makes it excellent for indepth exegetical bible studies. Another strength of the ESV is that it is the most up-to-date in scholarship. Like the NRSV when it first came out, ESV translators also made distinctly unique decisions regarding the rendering of certain passages. This is why it is useful to consult different translations (however, it may be difficult to know why the translators rendered certain words the way they did). The ESV is a scholarly translation and will become known as such. I predict that it will gain a greater respectability from mainline/secular academia than the NASB ever did. Since its translators are conservative/evangelical, like the NASB, it will inevitably become the pride of evangelicals.

The NRSV is not as literal as the NASB and is slightly less literal than the ESV; but yet, it is very accurate. Accuracy and literalness should not be equated as the same thing. The language of the NRSV is also a strength because it makes it more readable than the NASB, and even the ESV. The NRSV translators made choices to go with slightly different rendering from the traditional ones and that may be due to a more liberal Christian worldview or just a different way of handling the original text. I think the difference in worldview is less of a factor than the way the text is handled. The translators of the NRSV did a lot of work in making improvements over the RSV, even more so than what the ESV translators have done with the RSV, in my opinion. The NRSV is greatly enhanced in its readability over the RSV, and has increased in accuracy too.

In my past, the two translations I usually consult the most are the NASB and NRSV but this should not be seen as a slight to the ESV. I have only done so because I became accustomed to pulling the NASB and NRSV off the shelf first but this should not reflect my opinion of any of the three. I have recently started to consult the ESV much more often because I have discovered its excellence. All three translations are very good, and they are each unique in their own ways. So my search for a formal equivalent translation will continue on sometime into the future.