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Battle for the Bible Translation

At their annual summer convention, the Southern Baptists passed a resolution expressing "profound disappointment with Biblica and Zondervan Publishing House" for publishing the 2011 New International Version, concluding that "we cannot commend the 2011 NIV to Southern Baptists or the larger Christian community."

The resolution strikes us as divisive, shortsighted, and something that brings us, and no doubt the majority of the Christian community, profound disappointment.

To be fair, the resolution was not brought to the convention by the resolution committee, which wisely determined that the convention did not need to comment on the new translation. The resolution was the work of a single delegate, and only one other person spoke on its behalf. But no one on the convention floor spoke against it, and eyewitnesses say that up to 90 percent of the delegates raised their ballots to signal their approval.

The issue at stake is what the resolution called the NIV'S "gender-neutral methods of translation," saying the 2011 NIV has "gone beyond acceptable translation standards."

Whose translations standards are they talking about? The translation principle the resolution refers to is properly called "dynamic equivalence" or "functional equivalence." Such translations try to do something on the order of common sense: When arriving at a word or phrase that literally says one thing but functionally means another, they choose the functional meaning.

In biblical times, speakers would address a mixed group of believers with the greeting "brothers." Such was the practice even in English a generation ago. If a speaker were to do that today, many people ...

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Battle for the Bible Translation
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In the Magazine

September 2011

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