Sunday, 12 April 2015

There is hope for the NIV! A quick peak at Titus 2:13

I had a period where I started to really like the NASB, and also at times the NET Bible translations. You know what they say, it is always worth checking another translation. Well, if you are reading the older translation of the NIV then it is also worth checking the updated one, I think around 2011 for the full Bible. The version many evangelicals were reading in the 80s and 90s, and still many today, has some subtle but very significant differences. There is a very notable one I spotted in Hebrews 1, where we shift from Jesus being made a little lower than the angels, crowned with glory and honour and everything put under his feet, to MANKIND being made a little lower than the angels, crowned with glory and honour and everything put under our feet. That might seem like a big jump, but that is simply what is now understood to be in the original Greek. Too much had been made of the title "son of man", and all the glory, honour and authority so naturally seeming like something Jesus should have.

But the passage that is bouncing around my brain right now is from Titus 2:10-13. Up until now, I had been thinking that Titus was a really special book in terms of Christology, because my study was showing it to consistently assume that Jesus simply was the highest form of deity there could be. Jesus is God for the Titus writer. I was looking forward to writing a special section about it. Until I stumbled over a very significant change from old NIV, which follows the KJV, to new NIV.

Old NIV:
...while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us...

New NIV:
...while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us...

Can you see why this update is significant? It is actually significant on two levels, both of which I think are of great importance.

Firstly, in terms of my quest for the biblical justification of the fourth-century doctrine of the Triune God as something more than an "interpretation", I thought I had a solid "blue" text here, that is to say suggestive and compatible with later developments. It is now possible from the current NIV rendering - which I note to be now the mainstream reading - to understand the original passage differently, that Jesus is the glory of God that is to appear. But I suspect it is even more than that, and I am not alone. Literally the Greek says:

awaiting the blessed hope and [the] appearing of the glory of the great God and Saviour of us Christ Jesus.

Huther refers for proof to Buttman and Wince, perhaps affirming essentially that the "—" (dash) after "hope" is OK, because it is impossible to treat "the hope" and the "appearing" as one subject. Jesus is the glory of our great God. So the second [the] is justified, and the appearance of Christ Jesus is also the blessed hope.

This update from NIV is also significant for me on a second level. I feel very encouraged that while theological commitments will always have their influence on translators (and that can historically be shown without a shred of doubt), that this discipline with regard to bible translation and textual criticism is showing true advances toward neutrality, thus better translations, even at the cost of trinitarian proof texts! I admire that.

Before closing, I should also note that quite a few scholars seem to also keep open the possibility of another older interpretation, from a point of view of grammatical and author consistency, that the sentence requires in English the insertion of a second "our", which means that while Christ and God are distinguished, the eagerly awaited glory is shared and non-personified, as opposed to the previous interpretation. Suffice it to say that the chances of the Titus-writer meaning Titus to understand that Jesus just is God here seem to me slim according to current textual scholarship.

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