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Topics announced for conference on issues in Bible translation

WHEATON, Ill. (BP)–Even if it’s scheduled for 1999, a conference on “Gender-Related Issues in Bible Translation” at Wheaton (Ill.) College already is stirring interest.
The conference, postponed from February 1998 and now slated for Feb. 26-27, 1999, stems from controversy in 1997 over a planned “gender- inclusive” revision of the New International Version Bible translation for the U.S. market in the year 2001. The NIV revision has since been canceled.
Five papers will be presented at the conference, but the list of the presenters is not yet complete, said Gene Rubingh, one of three steering committee members organizing the event in behalf of the Forum of Bible Agencies, a fellowship of the International Bible Society, American Bible Society, Wycliffe Bible Translators and other Bible- related organizations. Rubingh is vice president for translations with the IBS, based in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Rubingh, in an interview, also said the steering committee is developing a working document to be utilized during the conference. No release date for the working document has been set, he said.
Rubingh released the topics for the papers:
— Paper 1: “Toward a definition of accuracy in translation.”
— Paper 2: “Translation issues in rendering masculine terms in the Old and New Testaments, including discussion of Hebrew ‘ish,’ ‘adam,’ Greek ‘anthropos,’ ‘aner,’ ‘adelphos’ and ‘huios.'”
— Paper 3: “An evaluation of techniques used in inclusive language translation: e.g. changing singular to plural, active verbs to passive, third person to first or second person.”
— Paper 4: “Culture and language: Assessing the role of culture in relation to the original text and the translated text.”
— Paper 5: “The translation of Old Testament passages quoted in the New Testament.”
Panel discussion topics will be:
— “Is translation everything? What is the role of the pastor and the church in the inclusive language discussion?”
— “To what extent should the language usage of the intended audience be allowed to influence translation?”
— “To what extent should translations respond to the trends in shifts of language usage?”
The other members of the conference steering committee are Katherine Barnwell, international translations coordinator for Wycliffe’s Summer Institute of Linguistics, and Basil Rebera, translation services coordinator with the United Bible Societies.
According to one news report, Zondervan Publishing House was cosponsoring the conference with the IBS, but a Zondervan spokesman said the company is not a cosponsor. Both Zondervan and IBS were at the center of the gender translation controversy — Zondervan is the NIV’s U.S. publisher and IBS is the NIV’s copyright holder. IBS and Zondervan announced a halt to the NIV gender-inclusive revision May 27 after a storm of theology-related objections were voiced by a number of U.S. evangelicals to changes in various passages where the words “he,” “man,” “brothers” and “mankind” typically are replaced by “people,” “person,” “brother and sister” and “humankind.” The NIV, for numerous years, has accounted for 45 percent of all Bibles sold in the United States.
In a Dec. 16 story in Baptist Press, Wayne Grudem, president of the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, said he has been invited to present one of the five papers during the 1999 conference. “To my current knowledge, I am the only scheduled presenter who has publicly spoken or written in defense of the Colorado Springs guidelines.”
The 14 Colorado Springs “guidelines for translation of gender-related language in Scripture” were adopted by a group of 11 evangelical leaders convened May 27 in Colorado Springs, Colo., by James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family ministry. Among the signers of the guidelines were Grudem, Zondervan President and CEO Bruce E. Ryskamp and IBS President Lars Dunberg.
The guidelines — which, for example, state, “‘Father’ (‘paler,’ ”ab’ in the original text) should not be changed to ‘parent,’ or ‘fathers’ to ‘parents,’ or ‘ancestors'” — reflect two key points of consensus adopted at the Colorado Springs meeting: “Specifically, we agree that it is inappropriate to use gender-neutral language when it diminishes accuracy in the translation of the Bible” and “We agree that Bible translations should not be influenced by illegitimate intrusions of secular culture or by political or ideological agendas.”
The guidelines, however, have their critics, including Mark Strauss, assistant professor of New Testament at Bethel Seminary, San Diego, and the author of an upcoming InterVarsity Press book on the Bible translation debate. Strauss told Baptist Press Dec. 15 the guidelines “are wrong” and “have serious problems. Most of the guidelines are hermeneutically or linguistically naive. … I think it was all decided far too quickly without a real examination of Bible translation issues.”
More than 50 Bible scholars, theologians and evangelical leaders, meanwhile, have publicly endorsed the Colorado Springs consensus statement and Bible translation guidelines, including Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr.; Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson and his wife, Dorothy; and two former Southern Baptist Convention presidents, Adrian Rogers, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church, Cordova, Tenn., and Jerry Vines, co-pastor of First Baptist Church, Jacksonville, Fla.