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New Testament Chair of ESV Committee Will Join NIV Team

"My biggest concern was the gender language," says Bill Mounce.

Ever since last year's gathering of the Evangelical Theological Society, Today's New International Version translator Mark Strauss and English Standard Version translator Bill Mounce have been friendly but public sparring partners.

"The ESV seems to me to be overly literal—full of archaisms, awkward language, obscure idioms, irregular word order, and a great deal of 'Biblish,'" Strauss wrote in his ETS paper, "Why the English Standard Version Should not become the Standard English Version."

"While the content of the paper was helpful, I am afraid that it only increased the gap between the two 'sides' of the debate," Mounce replied on his blog. "There has been a lot of hurt and damage done toward people on both sides of this debate (e.g., someone shot a bullet through a TNIV and mailed it to the publisher), and I got the feeling that Mark was getting tired of being attacked. I would be tired if I were in his shoes. He kept saying that the ESV has "missed" or "not considered" certain translational issues. While I am sure they were not intentional, these are emotionally charged words that do not help in the debate. They are in essence ad hominem arguments focusing on our competence (or perceived lack thereof) and not on the facts."

At the annual ETS meeting next month, Mounce will give a rejoinder, "Can the ESV and TNIV Co-exist in the same Universe?"

That title was published before Zondervan announced that it would cease publication of the TNIV and would launch a new version of the New International Version in 2011.

"In light of the recent announcement, I am tempted to stand before the ETS crowd, read the title, answer, 'Evidently not,' and sit down," Mounce recently wrote. "Do you think that type of humor would go over in an academic setting?"

Now Mounce has even more fodder for joking about his paper. Yesterday, he announced that at Strauss's invitation he will be joining the Committee on Bible Translation, which is updating the NIV.

"I don't want anyone to think that I am unhappy with the ESV or that I am 'jumping ship.' I am not. I thoroughly enjoy reading and studying from the ESV. But ... I strongly believe in different translation philosophies, that there is not a 'One Size Fits All' and that the translator's responsibility is to be consistent with that stated philosophy. So I have no trouble looking at the NIV's translation philosophy and working within those guidelines."

Still, Mounce has been critical of Strauss's emphasis on colloquial English (which is, broadly speaking, the emphasis of the CBT). "To confine 'English' to a colloquial form does not give due credit to the true breadth of language," Mounce wrote. "Whose colloquial English? Someone from southern California, dude? Or someone from Texas? The deep south? New English? ... Time and time again on the ESV translation committee I was shocked to find how different we all heard words depending on the subculture to which we belong (or is it, 'we belong to')?"

Mounce, who has been an employee of NIV publisher Zondervan since July (he works on BibleGateway), suggested that he might push for less gender-inclusive language in the 2011 NIV than the TNIV contained. (The ESV's usage of "men" and "brothers" rather than "people" and "brothers and sisters" was one of its selling points.)

"My biggest concern [in joining the NIV team] was the gender language, and the mishandling of the TNIV rollout that has been such a problem, and how that could happen again," Mounce wrote. "You should know that I have been absolutely assured that the gender language is truly on the table for discussion, and since so much of the committee has changed, it is not a forgone conclusion as to how this committee will vote. Without that assurance, I could not have joined.

"I am not expecting 'brother and sister' to go away (nor should it, given the NIV's translation philosophy), and thankfully 'humankind' never occurs in the NIV/TNIV. What an ugly word! But 'mankind' continues to be used as a generic term in English, as does 'man.' I know there are people who disagree with this point, but the fact that it is used generically over and over again cannot truly be debated; the evidence is everywhere. ... But who knows where the NIV 2011 will go and how I will vote."

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Posted:October 13, 2009 at 10:02AM
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