Bill Mounce, who “was the New Testament chair of the ESV translation”, has just announced on his blog that he has joined the Committee on Bible Translation which is preparing the 2011 update of the NIV translation. I thank Mike Aubrey for bringing this news to my attention.
This is certainly interesting news, in the light of the campaign led by some of the other ESV translators against the CBT’s last offering, TNIV. Mounce realises that his move could be misunderstood:
Here is my concern. I don’t want anyone to think that I am unhappy with the ESV or that I am “jumping ship.” I am not.
Indeed Mounce himself has been quite critical of some TNIV translation decisions. Only a week ago, while he must have been considering his invitation to join the CBT, he wrote:
I am being reminded how fundamentally different formal and functional translations are. The ESV is a good example of one, and the TNIV of the other, but never the two shall meet, I suspect.
So this news is indeed something of a surprise. But perhaps not so much a surprise – it may be that behind the scenes negotiations about the 2011 update led to an agreement to invite some more conservative scholars to join the CBT. As such Mounce is an excellent choice who will certainly strengthen the Committee and improve the updated NIV. It should also help to head off criticism of the update from Mounce’s former ESV colleagues.
But what are the consequences likely to be for the controversial aspects of TNIV, such as its gender related language? Will they survive in the NIV update? Mounce makes it clear that he will not try to change NIV to make it like ESV:
I strongly believe in different translation philosophies … I have no trouble looking at the NIV’s translation philosophy and working within those guidelines.
He is clearly not entirely happy with TNIV’s gender language, but
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.
He seems to believe that “mankind” and “man” can still be used gender generically at least in some contexts. But he has no problem with TNIV’s controversial use of singular “they”. Well, I hope the CBT will make such decisions based primarily on input from experts in the English language, not from biblical scholars like Mounce. I am glad to see that his attitude seems to be one of deferring to actual English usage, and certainly not that of some of his ESV translator colleagues who denounce legitimate translation decisions as deliberate distortion.
I would be a little concerned if several scholars with Mounce’s views were invited to join CBT. That might be seen as an attempt to hijack the committee. But I do welcome Mounce’s appointment and look forward to his positive influence on the updated NIV.