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NIV wackiness (James 2)

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NIV wackiness (James 2)

Postby ndansmith » Wed Aug 15, 2007 7:28 pm

James 2 NIV wrote:Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called God's friend. You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.

In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction?

Where I have emphasized, the NIV is translating the same verb (same voice, mood, person and number, different tense) differently in a single paragraph. I've been able to conceive of several justifications the NIV translators may have used for this decision:

- Theological interpolation (perhaps in favor of works-based salvation)
- Conformity to the King James Version in "popular" verses
- Varying word choice for good English literary style
- Grammatical reasons (not sure what those would be)
- Contextual reasons (again, not sure what those would be)

It seems most likely to me that the NIV was hearkening back to the KJV (see Proverbs 3:5 for another example). Did I miss any other possibilities? What do you think is going on here?

Does anyone care to venture their own translation?
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Re: NIV wackiness (James 2)

Postby modus.irrealis » Fri Aug 17, 2007 7:45 pm

As I understand it, the NIV is a Protestant-based translation, and I'm not very familiar with Protestant thought, but isn't the idea there that "justification" means "being considered just (by God)"? If that's the case, I think it might just be a case of your:

ndansmith wrote:- Varying word choice for good English literary style
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Re: NIV wackiness (James 2)

Postby klewlis » Sat Aug 18, 2007 5:15 am

modus.irrealis wrote:As I understand it, the NIV is a Protestant-based translation, and I'm not very familiar with Protestant thought, but isn't the idea there that "justification" means "being considered just (by God)"? If that's the case, I think it might just be a case of your:

ndansmith wrote:- Varying word choice for good English literary style


or possibly also to make the meaning more clear? Words like "justified" can be better understood by a beginner if they are explained through synonyms...?
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Re: NIV wackiness (James 2)

Postby modus.irrealis » Sat Aug 18, 2007 6:15 pm

klewlis wrote:or possibly also to make the meaning more clear? Words like "justified" can be better understood by a beginner if they are explained through synonyms...?

That's a good point. You can also see it as ruling out what the translators think are erroneous translations (since "justify" can and does mean different things theologically to different people) and being very explicit about what they think the original Greek meant.
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Re: NIV wackiness (James 2)

Postby ndansmith » Sun Aug 19, 2007 11:07 pm

klewlis wrote:
modus.irrealis wrote:As I understand it, the NIV is a Protestant-based translation, and I'm not very familiar with Protestant thought, but isn't the idea there that "justification" means "being considered just (by God)"? If that's the case, I think it might just be a case of your:

ndansmith wrote:- Varying word choice for good English literary style


or possibly also to make the meaning more clear? Words like "justified" can be better understood by a beginner if they are explained through synonyms...?

Be that as it may, it seems to me that the job of a translation is not to introduce vocabulary to its readers. But that is neither here nor there with respect to why the NIV translated this passage this way.
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Postby AVRAHAM » Wed Aug 22, 2007 7:14 pm

My first guess would be "- Conformity to the King James Version in "popular" verses". Too often I find passages translated out of tradition. And a fear to make a popular verse sound weird or strange. Let's also not forget that the NIV is a dynamic equivalent. And has a higher paraphrase rate, and divergence from the NA27 text than some other translations. The KJV is a little different, in that it says Rahab also was "justified" instead of "considered righteous". I don't agree with the phrase "considered righteous". As the word "considered" is not is the text, nor do I believe it is inferred. By saying these people were "considered righteous" you leave it open to such interpretions as "they really were not righteous, just considered to be", etc. But I also do not agree with the word "justified". Or even "righteous". I think both words have too many religious cannotations to them, and don't hold the same intended meaning to a non-Christian. As I think modus.irrealis was refering? While not having done an in depth study on this passage, I would choose something more on the lines of "just", "right", or "proper". Maybe an English thesaurus might bring a more eloquent word. However, there is little difference between "right" and "righteous", and "just" with "justified". Other than religious cannotation. Which I personally feel is unecessary. If we are reading the Bible, we already assume it is a some sort of a religious nature. But using words associated with religious themes in our language, I would argue, is altering to the text...
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Postby klewlis » Wed Aug 22, 2007 8:08 pm

AVRAHAM wrote:My first guess would be "- Conformity to the King James Version in "popular" verses". Too often I find passages translated out of tradition. And a fear to make a popular verse sound weird or strange. Let's also not forget that the NIV is a dynamic equivalent. And has a higher paraphrase rate, and divergence from the NA27 text than some other translations. The KJV is a little different, in that it says Rahab also was "justified" instead of "considered righteous". I don't agree with the phrase "considered righteous". As the word "considered" is not is the text, nor do I believe it is inferred. By saying these people were "considered righteous" you leave it open to such interpretions as "they really were not righteous, just considered to be", etc. But I also do not agree with the word "justified". Or even "righteous". I think both words have too many religious cannotations to them, and don't hold the same intended meaning to a non-Christian. As I think modus.irrealis was refering? While not having done an in depth study on this passage, I would choose something more on the lines of "just", "right", or "proper". Maybe an English thesaurus might bring a more eloquent word. However, there is little difference between "right" and "righteous", and "just" with "justified". Other than religious cannotation. Which I personally feel is unecessary. If we are reading the Bible, we already assume it is a some sort of a religious nature. But using words associated with religious themes in our language, I would argue, is altering to the text...


That doesn't make sense, though, if the author himself was using specifically religious wording on purpose (which he was). Why would we move away from religious connotation in the language?
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Postby AVRAHAM » Wed Aug 22, 2007 9:47 pm

klewlis wrote: That doesn't make sense, though, if the author himself was using specifically religious wording on purpose (which he was). Why would we move away from religious connotation in the language?

Care to elaborate? The word in question, as far as I can see, is used quite extensively in secular writing, before, during, and after Koine times. They are even used in the in the LXX, without religious cannotation...
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Postby klewlis » Wed Aug 22, 2007 11:30 pm

AVRAHAM wrote:
klewlis wrote: That doesn't make sense, though, if the author himself was using specifically religious wording on purpose (which he was). Why would we move away from religious connotation in the language?

Care to elaborate? The word in question, as far as I can see, is used quite extensively in secular writing, before, during, and after Koine times. They are even used in the in the LXX, without religious cannotation...


In the context of the first century church, it took on a technical, theological connotation. Romans is an excellent example--throughout the epistle it is used as a specifically theological term.
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Postby modus.irrealis » Thu Aug 23, 2007 12:02 am

AVRAHAM wrote:As I think modus.irrealis was refering?

I was actually thinking of difference within Christianity -- in the tradition I was brought up in, besides not being all that central a concept, "justify" means "make just," while my understanding of Protestantism is that "justify" is a crucial concept (that's almost "no pun intended" worthy :D) and strictly means "consider just" with the idea that God freely of His own accord declares you just, i.e. clears you of guilt, but isn't understood as making you just since no one can be just under the standard of the Law. All corrections to my understanding are of course welcome. So, the NIV being a Protestant translation, my thinking was that they were just trying to translate the Greek text as accurately as they could according to their understanding of it, and so "consider righteous" (and I see nothing wrong with translating one word in Greek with two in English) is more accurate than the potentially ambiguous "justify," especially if they don't think the Greek is ambiguous.
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Postby ndansmith » Thu Aug 23, 2007 9:57 pm

AVRAHAM wrote:I don't agree with the phrase "considered righteous". As the word "considered" is not is the text, nor do I believe it is inferred.

"Considered" does not have to be in the text nor inferred for it to be the proper translation. Or rather, it is in the text as part of δικαιόω.

By saying these people were "considered righteous" you leave it open to such interpretions as "they really were not righteous, just considered to be", etc.
That brings up an ironic aspect of Christian theology. Is a Christian "really righteous," or just considered to be so by God? That is neither here nor there.

klewlis' point about it being a technical term is spot-on. I think the real question about δικαιόω in this passage is whether or not it is appropriate to assign to it the same technical meaning which Paul uses. I would say it is not, and that "consider righteous" is the better translation.
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