italics, etc.

Date: Thu Apr 04 1996 - 04:54:56 EST

It's been interesting to see so many comments about italics, and I've been
making lots of mental notes. A. Brent Hudson seems especially concerned
about the way the NASB has handled it, and notes inter alia that "the
righteous _man_ shall live..." is undesirably male-oriented. In doing the
latest edition of the NASB (the '95 Update) we have tried to be more gender-
neutral in some verses (we still have "man" in Rom 1:17), e.g. using
"person" in a number of places where we had "man" previously. In a Bible
like the NASB, however, gender inclusiveness has to be handled very sensi-
tively. We have no desire to make a political statement or turn the NASB
into something else. This means, among other things, that changes toward
gender-inclusiveness should not draw attention to themselves (as they do
in the NRSV for example), and we are translating for a sophisticated audi-
ence who for the most part understand that "man" in the NASB does not neces-
sarily mean "male". By contrast, when I'm teaching a class at UC Riverside,
I go pretty far out of my way to use "politically correct" language as long
as I do not feel too awkward doing so--terms like "humankind", using "she"
and "her" as frequently as "he" or "him", "chair" instead of "chairman" etc.
Even so, I still notice people in the media and elsewhere whom we would
expect to be politically correct using male-oriented language a good deal,
and this tends to reign us in on using too much "politically correct"
terminology in the Bible.
Another interesting point raised more recently is in regard to linguistics.
I have never had a course in linguistics but have, I believe, had a great
deal of exposure to it through teaching and reading classical languages, and
I think it has a lot to offer, especially in a time characterized by a pro-
found lack of understanding of grammar. However, I cringe when I hear lin-
guists make statements about the classical languages (particularly Greek)
which appear to be based on general linguistic concepts and not on thorough
reading of the original texts. This can even be a problem in lexical studies.
Someone noted criticism of LSJ for example, and perhaps many people (linguists
included?) don't realize that Classicists do in fact view LSJ as a commentary
and at the same time credit very high value to it. We also know that the
meaning of a word depends highly on its context, historical, geographical etc.
The only person I ever met personally who was truly qualified to criticize
LSJ was a Greek professor I had in graduate Greek composition (truly a night-
mare of a course!), who would repeatedly scold me for mistakenly using poetic
terminology in prose. One day I insisted that a particular word I had used
was specifically identified by LSJ as prose, and he countered that as scholars,
we were not to depend on LSJ but be critical of it. What to use then? His
answer was that the only way one could be sure of vocabulary and grammar was
to read the original texts! (He meant read and be familiar with all of Thucy-
dides, all of Plato, all of Aristotle, all of the best writers, in effect.)
I wish I had that kind of time and dedication. I hope the point of that story
is self-evident (otherwise, the point may be that I shouldn't try to write
long messages late at night).

Don Wilkins

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