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Bible translation developments span 4 fronts thus far in 1999

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Developments in Bible translation have made 1999 a busy year thus far.
In addition to potential controversy surrounding a new gender-neutral, or gender-inclusive, translation under way by the International Bible Society — the guardian of the New International Version — three other key announcements have been made this year concerning the rendering of God’s Word in contemporary English:
One involves a new translation under the Southern Baptist Convention umbrella; a second involves an evangelical revision of the Revised Standard Version; and a third is a translation squarely oriented toward abstinence from alcohol.
The three announcements, in summary:
— Broadman & Holman Publishers, a division of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, is producing a new Bible translation, named the Holman Christian Standard Bible (CSB).
The translation will combine commitment to accuracy in communicating the original text and modern-day readability, said Kenneth H. Stephens, B&H president, in a May 7 announcement. The Gospel of John has been completed, with all four gospels and the Book of Revelation set to be finished by the end of 1999. The New Testament is targeted for completion by the end of 2000, with the entire Bible to be released by 2004.
The project encompasses a 78-person team of translators, lexicologists, stylists and other scholars around the world coordinated by a six-person team headquartered in Dallas. Team members represent 20 denominations, including Southern Baptists, Plymouth Brethren, Presbyterians (PCA), Congregationalists, Church of England, Church of God, Evangelical Free Church, Methodists, Evangelical Mennonites and Episcopalians.
Work on the new translation began in 1984 as an independent project of Arthur Farstad, who served as general editor for the New King James Version. Broadman & Holman joined forces with Farstad in 1998. Only months after beginning his collaboration with B&H, Farstad died. Leadership of the editorial team then passed to Edwin Blum, a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary who had been an integral part of the team.
LifeWay President James T. Draper Jr. said the Holman Christian Standard Bible will be “an accurate, literal rendering with a smoothness and readability that invites memorization, reading aloud and dedicated study.”
— In mid-February, several prominent Southern Baptists endorsed an inerrancy-based edition of the Revised Standard Version (1971) to be published as the “English Standard Version” by Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Ill.
The ESV will be “more literal than the New International Version,” one scholar told Baptist Press, “and more readable than the New American Standard Bible,” which some people use because it is an “extremely literal translation.” The ESV will be geared toward mature readers, the scholar said, but also for preachers to use in sermons without having to explain so often, “What it means in the original language is … .”
Among the Southern Baptists on the new English Standard Version’s 51-member advisory council are Paige Patterson, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, N.C., and president of the Southern Baptist Convention, and his wife, Dorothy; R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Ky., and Thomas R. Schreiner, professor of New Testament interpretation at Southern; Carl F.H. Henry, theologian and founding editor of Christianity Today magazine; Timothy George, dean of the Beeson Divinity School at Samford University, Birmingham, Ala.; and Jerry Falwell, TV preacher and pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church, Lynchburg, Va.
Additionally, the ESV’s 12-member translation oversight committee will include Paul R. House, professor of Old Testament interpretation at Southern Seminary, as associate chairman of the project’s Old Testament committee.
Among other members of the translation oversight committee are Wayne A. Grudem, chairman of the department of biblical and systematic theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, and J.I. Packer, author and professor of theology at Regent College, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Crossway, in its news release, said the ESV adaptation of the RSV will be published under a licensing agreement with the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., for English language publication in North America and the rest of the world.
— A new translation being produced by the Lorine L. Reynolds Foundation, Glenside, Pa., will center on abstinence from alcohol, according to a report in the North Carolina Baptist newsjournal Biblical Recorder June 4.
The foundation’s initial undertaking, “The Holy Bible, A Purified Translation, The Gospel According to John,” for example, translates “the water that had become grape juice” in the John 2:9 account of Jesus’ first miracle at a wedding in Cana, the Biblical Recorder reported. Footnotes to the translation say the Greek word usually translated as “wine” in John 2 is “neutral as to alcoholic content.” Since Jesus would have obeyed an admonition not to look at alcohol in Proverbs 23:31, he would not have created alcoholic wine, the footnotes say.
About 40,000 copies of the gospel were mailed May 17-18 mostly to Southern Baptists, with foundation officials citing Baptists’ opposition to alcohol.
The main translator for the project is 90-year-old Stephen M. Reynolds, who holds a doctor of philosophy in Old Testament languages from Princeton University and has taught at several seminaries. Reynolds formed the foundation in honor of his deceased wife. He was ordained in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and is now a member of a denomination called the American Presbyterian Church. He said he was baptized by immersion in a conservative Baptist church and still believes in believer’s baptism.
Until a few years ago, he believed that drinking alcohol was a “Christian liberty,” Reynolds told the Biblical Recorder. Further study, however, revealed that was false, he said. The translation of John says in its introduction that earlier translations have hurt Christians by falsely suggesting that the Bible sanctions the use of alcoholic beverages.
The Biblical Recorder contacted a New Testament professor at Campbell University’s divinity school, Andrew Wakefield, in Buies Creek, N.C., who, among other things, said the Greek word translated as “wine” in John 2 usually means fermented wine, while another Greek word means unfermented wine.
Wakefield also noted 1 Timothy 5:23 in which the Apostle Paul tells Timothy to stop drinking only water and to take a little wine for his stomach. Translating that word as grape juice, the professor said, would be questionable because Middle Eastern culture holds that wine has medicinal benefits.
Wakefield said he is not against promoting abstinence from alcohol and is mindful of Paul’s admonition not to cause a brother to stumble. And, Wakefield said, Reynolds’ Gospel of John otherwise is not a bad translation.
The article on the abstinence-based Bible translation can be found at the Biblical Recorder’s Internet site, biblicalrecorder.org.

Steve DeVane contributed to this article.