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Bible translation update
In this issue: New president for MLS, Supporting our troops, Synod administration building update, New look for evangelism site
For more than a year we have been involved in discussions about the selection of a translation to be used in WELS publications. For a church body like ours, firmly committed to the truth of the inspired and inerrant Scriptures and to the Reformation principle of sola Scriptura, few discussions could be more important.
As part of the ongoing effort to foster discussion and to clarify the issues involved in a translation choice, the Translation Evaluation Committee (TEC) organized a symposium that was held in early January. It was intended to provide a forum to hear and discuss all sides of the translation issue and to work toward consensus on the translation principles that will guide our decision.
Rev. Paul Wendland, chairman of the TEC and president of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, says, “We (the TEC) felt that the symposium had served a good purpose. All of us came away with a deeper understanding of the complex choices that need to be made in translating God’s Word into English. All of us were given ample opportunity to speak about our translational preferences and concerns, especially as those concerns applied to the NIV 2011. United in the belief that the Bible is God’s inspired Word and in our conviction that Christ is the center of the Scriptures, we were able to discuss our preferences in a frank, and yet in a very fair and brotherly way.”
No “vote” was taken at the symposium regarding a preferred translation. There was a wide range of opinion expressed about the NIV 2011; both favorable opinions as well as various concerns were expressed. In keeping with the purpose of the symposium, the participants focused their attention on translation principles and the process of translation and agreed that more discussion and study is needed.
Wendland says, “Is it wise for us given the time constraints we’ve all been working under to make a final decision this summer? For one thing, have we really—either as a synod, as districts, or even as an evaluation committee—had sufficient time to make a comparative evaluation of the various versions? Since July 2011, the TEC has been active, attending conventions and gatherings in all 12 districts and writing articles, reports and e-mails. We have done our best to do as the convention asked, namely ‘to educate the synod on the general principles that we ought to use to evaluate the Bible translations mentioned in its reports, and so to help build a consensus among us on which translation to use for synod publications.’ ”
In addition to the fact that the TEC has not had the time to study alternatives to the NIV 2011 as completely as it would like, a number of other factors indicate that it may be wise not to make a final decision this summer. When the convention determined that a decision should be made at the districts, the information available indicated that the NIV 1984 would not be able to be used in WELS publications after 2013. This turned out to be inaccurate. The “fair use” principle in copyright and publishing law indicates that Northwestern Publishing House would be able to continue using the NIV 1984 in its publications, provided that the quotations do not comprise a significant portion of the published material.
All of this—the continuing concerns about NIV 2011 as well as the new information regarding the use of NIV 1984—means that the option to delay a decision may be one of the choices put before the district conventions this summer. The Conference of Presidents will be discussing this in upcoming meetings. If the COP adopts a recommendation to delay a decision, that recommendation will be forwarded to the districts for consideration.
What about the possibility of producing a new or revised translation by Lutherans? This matter is still under discussion by the Translation Feasibility Committee. If a decision is delayed by the districts this summer, additional time would be available to explore this option further. This is in keeping with the 2011 convention directive to study this option carefully and thoroughly. It’s recognized that this option may not solve the immediate need to choose a translation for the short term and would be possible only as a longer term solution.
Some are concerned that this entire translation issue is an unfortunate cause of division among us. But in many ways, this entire discussion can be a blessing to us. We are not divided on doctrinal issues or the nature of Scripture itself. In all of our discussions—even those with some passion and heat—it is evident that we are completely united in our commitment to the inerrancy and inspiration of the Scriptures. It is clear that we have a fervent desire to communicate God’s truth as clearly and as accurately as we can. It’s my prayer that our commitment to his Word will be deepened and strengthened by this process, difficult as it may sometimes be. After all, it is that Word that unites us in a common faith, committed to work together with one voice to proclaim the crucified and risen Christ.
Serving in Christ,