Rick Mansfield continues his series reviewing Bible translations, this time with the Good News Translation, otherwise known as The Good News Bible, Today's English Version, Good News for Modern Man, and various other names. (Rick explains the name issue in the post, by the way.)
I have three observations about the examples Rick chose to highlight this translation and one picky comment about his choice of language in one a side point. First, look at the Proverbs example he gives and his comment below. I actually noticed the parallelism issue before I got to his comments on it, and I have to say that it bothers me much more than it bothers him. The structural features of Hebrew poetry often do give clues to meaning, and this is a case where the loss of the structure is entirely unnecessary. Exactly why do you need to lose the parallelism to keep the meaning and to put it into modern English? That strikes me as just unnecessary. It's one thing to give up the form reluctantly in order to preserve some aspect of the meaning, as dynamic translations often do, but here I'm guessing they give it up because they think it makes the content clearer. I fail to see how.
I also noticed something in the Matthew example. The phrase "meaningless repetition" becomes "a lot of meaningless words" in the GNT. Doesn't that actually change the meaning? Jesus isn't talking about each word as meaningless, with lots of such meaningless words. It's not as if people are saying "glub, worp, drib, lert, flir, trilt" and so on. But that's the most obvious meaning of this rendering, isn't it? This strikes me as a genuine inaccuracy. I don't throw that word around, since I'm pretty sensitive to its misuse by Wayne Grudem, Leland Ryken, Vern Poythress, and others in the crowd opposing inclusive language translations, where what they call inaccuracies are just different translation methods that involve disagreements on how best to preserve meaning. But here we really do have a change in meaning from the original to the translation, and this is a translation where plain surface meaning is supposed to be the main goal. I think that counts as an inaccuracy.
My third observation was in Phil 2:6. Part of that verse reads "but he did not think that by force he should try to become equal with God". I'm sorry, but that is not natural-sounding English. It's grammatically correct, technically speaking, and I think sometimes constructions like that are necessary in formal writing. But people don't put prepositional phrases before the subject like that unless they're trying to (1) get around some other rendering that would mislead in terms of meaning, (2) get around some other rendering that they believe (often wrongly) to be grammatically incorrect, e.g. split infinitives or ending the sentence with a preposition, or (3) translate something from another language that has the prepositional phrase before the subject, thus displaying that they care more about the emphasis in the original based on word order than they do about natural-sounding English form (which I think is a legitimate dispute with something to be said for both sides).
Now I can't see how (1) would be true. It sounds fine and has a plain meaning with the prepositional phrase at the end. Such a rendering would also have no grammatical problem, real or perceived, so (2) is out. But (3) is against the official translation policy of the GNT. So I'm not sure what happened. Maybe it's just a generational thing, and people used to talk like that, but I just can't hear that as natural-sounding English today.
I've also got a little quibble with Rick's choice of words at one point. He seemed to me to be equating inclusive language translations with those "that pay attention to gender concerns". That doesn't seem like the best way to describe the differences translations have with regard to gender inclusiveness. The ESV and HSCB, for instance, include inclusive language in some places where older translations do not (e.g. most instances of 'anthropos' come out as "person" or "human" or the like). But they don't do it in all the places that the NRSV, NLT, TNIV, and other more inclusive translations do. That doesn't mean the ESV and HSCB don't pay attention to gender concerns (at all). Such a description sounds too all-encompassing.
But even translations like the NASB or NKJV pay attention to gender concerns. They don't completely ignore the meaning of all gendered terms. They just don't pay attention to the one particular kind of gender concern that inclusive language translations have begun paying attention to now. Or rather, they do not enact the view on that issue that people behind inclusive language translations have enacted in those translations. Neither do the ESV and HCSB for many cases, but they certainly did pay attention to such issues even if they ended up with a different translation policy on the issue in many contexts. This point isn't a big deal, but I think it's good to say precisely what you mean, particularly when it's somewhat pejorative-sounding, and I don't think that was the best or most fair way to put it, even if I and most of his readers would know exactly what he was talking about (and even if I know that he has no bone to pick with translations that aren't gender-inclusive; he's in fact one of the few people I've ever encountered with a view pretty much like mine on the issue, accepting both kinds of translations for what they are and for the contexts for which they are best).