Between a Rock and a Hard Place

John Brug (Sturtevant, Wisconsin USA)

Archived discussion

About the presenter

John Brug taught at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary in Mequon for 32 years and edited the Wisconsin Lutheran Quarterly for more than 20 years. He is currently the general editor for the Wartburg Project, which is producing a new Bible translation, the Evangelical Heritage Version.

Authors and editors are often faced with hard choices when they are producing communications intended for the public. In many situations they know that no matter which option they choose, part of their audience is going to be unhappy with their choice.

For example, the communicator is often between a rock and a hard place when choosing between two grammatical constructions. If he or she chooses option A (the more formal, traditional construction), the message will sound stuffy or stilted to part of the audience, and the communicator will be labeled a "traditionalist snob." If the communicator chooses option B (a more informal, colloquial construction which accurately reproduces contemporary speech) cries of "Bad Grammar!" will arise from grammatical traditionalists. How does a communicator produce a balanced style that results in normal-sounding, non-snooty speech, but also anticipates and deflects erroneous but predicable criticism by grammatical traditionalists?

This dilemma confronts communicators in almost every medium and genre of communication, whether written or oral, but our examples in this mini-conference will be taken from the most sensitive genre of all: Bible translation. This mini-seminar is based on experience gained by the Wartburg Project, a society of professors, pastors, teachers and laypeople, who are working together to produce a new Bible translation, the Evangelical Heritage Version. (See the Wartburg Project website for information about this project.)

The Bible is the most sensitive genre of communication because Christians cherish the Bible as the inspired Word of God. Translators have no calling to edit or "improve" what the Holy Spirit has said. Experienced readers of the Bible have very definite ideas about what a Bible should sound like, but different groups of those readers have very different ideas about what a Bible should sound like. In addition, readers know many Bible passages by heart from various translations. They expect a new translation to improve the readability of the text but without making any noticeable changes to familiar expressions. The task of Bible translation magnifies the tug of war between formal and informal speech, between freshness and familiarity.

We can start the discussion with a simple example. When our project published a sample translation of the Gospel of Matthew we received the following question.

"Why does your translation use bad grammar? In the Garden of Gethsemane you twice have Jesus saying, "Who are you looking for?" It should be "For whom are you looking?" Jesus would not use bad grammar."

Our EHV guidelines that govern this situation are: Observe distinctions between who and whom, etc., but try to avoid uses that sound stilted or pedantic in contemporary English. "Who are you looking for?" sounds like normal conversation to most people. "For whom are you looking?" is not common in conversation. When reporting conversations in writing, try out a few English sentences and see what sounds like normal conversation.

Do the same for the rule "no prepositions last." In Germanic languages "prepositions" (which often are actually detachable particles that are part of the verb) sound natural at the end of a spoken sentence. The editors knew this was a no-win situation. Grammatical purists would say that "who are you looking for?" is bad grammar. But just as many people would say that "for whom are you looking?" sounds stuffy. It makes Jesus sound like a book rather than a living speaker. Other terms some people would use to describe "for whom are you looking?" are "super-formal" and "a school-teacher superstition." There are strong feelings at both ends of the spectrum.

But editors had to make a choice. (Or we could retain Jesus' original English dialect, King James English in which Jesus would say, "Whom seekest thou?")

If you were the editor of Matthew, what would you have Jesus say?

A. Who are you looking for?
B. For whom are you looking?
C. Whom seekest thou?
D. None of the above. Here is my better rendering: ___________________________
Explain and defend your choice.

An option for further study: See Supplement II — The War Over Whom at the end of this presentation.

This is a sample of the kind of question you will wrestle with in this mini-course. But first we have to make a little detour.

Are You a Snoot or a Slacker?

Before you can wrestle with individual cases, we need to adopt some general principles to guide us. What is your basic philosophy about grammar and usage?

Is your approach to grammar prescriptive? When making tough decisions, do you prefer to follow a rule book handed to you by some authority? When you are between a rock and a hard place, do you tend to look the situation up in the rulebook and rigidly follow its advice? Or is your approach to grammar more descriptive? You think, "This is a conversation not a formal proclamation." The people I know do not say, 'For whom are you looking?' The normal way of talking is 'Who are you looking for?'"

Self Evaluation

Is your approach to grammar more prescriptive or descriptive? (This is, of course, not an either/or.) Where do you think you fall on this 1-5 scale?

Descriptivist Slacker . . . 1 . . 2 . . 3 . . 4 . . 5 . . . Prescriptivist Snoot
(Rules are made to broken) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (Rules are Rules!)

Does it matter whether you are writing or speaking?
Does it matter whether you are talking to your grandma or your friend?
Does it matter if you are going to get a grade on it?

An optional further study: Read and evaluate an online article about prescriptive and descriptive grammar.

Twelve Myths People Believe About English Grammar

Here are twelve "myths" about English grammar that are believed by many otherwise sensible people. Most of the otherwise sensible people who believe these myths are staunch prescriptivists. Checking your attitude and practice toward these myths will help you measure whether you are more of a prescriptivist "rules are rules" snoot or a descriptivist "rules are made to be broken" slacker.

The Myths

These myths are also called grammatical superstitions, which may be defined as "unintelligent applications of an uninformed dogma."

  • Myth 1: You should never end a sentence with a preposition.
    • This is a valid rule in Latin in which pre-positions must be pre-positioned, but Latin is not English. In English, ending a sentence with a preposition or verbal particle is completely idiomatic. As Winston Churchill remarked, "This is a rule up with which it is not necessary to put."
  • Myth 2: You should not split an infinitive.
    • You are permitted to politely ignore this rule.
  • Myth 3: Do not split a verb phrase.
    • This rule has greatly annoyed me for a long time. It also has annoyed me greatly.
  • Myth 4: You must not begin a sentence with And or But.
    • But that rule has been ignored by fine writers from Anglo-Saxon times till the present.
  • Myth 5: Do not write one-sentence paragraphs.
    • The previous sentence disproves this rule. One-sentence paragraphs may be emphatic, dramatic, or merely provide relief from wearying verbosity.
  • Myth 6: Never begin a sentence with because.
    • Because there is no basis for this rule, you may ignore it. But of course you must avoid creating dangling fragments of sentences beginning with because.
  • Myth 7: Never use since to mean because.
    • Since since may refer to either time or cause, you may use since as an alternative to because sparingly.
  • Myth 8: Never use between to express a relationship between more than two objects.
    • But since a triangle is a space lying between three points, you do not always have to follow this rule.
  • Myth 9: It is best to avoid referring to I and me in formal writing.
  • Myth 10: Do not refer to your reader as you.
    • The use of you and I makes your writing more warm and personal. Substituting something like the undersigned for a simple I immodestly calls more attention to the writer than a simple I would. There's nothing wrong with warm informality in personal opinions that are inserted into formal writing.
  • Myth 11: Don't use contractions in formal writing.
    • When you are reporting informal conversation in writing, thou shalt not sound like a snoot. Don't do it!

Self Evaluation

How many of these "myths" do you believe to be good rules?
How many of these "myths" do you practice?
Have you changed your mind about any of them?
How many of these myths does your English textbook recommend as firm rules?

(There is, of course, a difference whether these are practiced as a rigid rules or useful guidelines.)


People who make fun of people who believe myths about grammar usually believe a few myths themselves. Grammarologist Bryan Garner, who composed the list of myths above, himself believes the following myth:

Myth 12: When it comes to relative pronouns, in restrictive (essential) clauses use that rather than which whenever you can. This distinction between that and which makes good sense. It enhances clarity. And the best American editors follow it.

Garner's claim that this is a rule of English is unraveled by his inclusion of the words "it makes good sense" and "American." Myth 12 is based on an authority's opinion about what the rule should be rather than on objective facts based on the historical usage of the English language. American grammatical authorities have made a lot of progress persuading American editors that this myth about that and which is true, but they have made less progress among adherents of the Queen's English. In the early 20th century H. W. Fowler, who promoted the same that/which distinction as Garner, admitted that neither the most nor the best writers practiced this distinction.

It is, therefore, not necessary to believe the myth which advocates that as the only pronoun to govern essential relative clauses and which as the right word for non-essential clauses. This rule is not supported by the history or usage of the English language. The distinction between non-essential and essential clauses can be clearly marked by the presence or absence of commas. However, you may want to use that as the marker of essential relative clauses more often the historical evidence of English usage would demand, because many people believe this myth and for you to do otherwise would lead to erroneous but predictable criticism.

Another Myth

As long as we are dealing with myths let's tackle one more. The myth: Pronouns that refer to God should be capitalized to honor God.

It has, in fact, been a convention of recent English usage to capitalize nouns and pronouns which refer to God. This practice, however, seems to have begun only in the 20th century. It was not the practice of early English translations, including the original King James. The basic principles of the EHV are: Capitalization of nouns and pronouns that refer to God is not a feature of the original text nor a long-standing practice in English, so it is better not to adopt this practice.

Capitalization is not a feature that marks deity versus non-deity or that conveys honor. Capitalization distinguishes a title or a proper name from a common noun: the Antichrist or an antichrist, the Evil One or an evil one; the Church or the church. But capitalization does not indicate deity or reverence: Santa Claus, Satan, the Easter Bunny, the King, the Great Pumpkin, and I are all capitalized.

This example shows how quickly a grammatical rule can rise and fall. After a heyday of less than a century, this rule is now in decline.


Why do you think that a request to capitalize pronouns referring to God is one of the most common requests our project receives?
Why does this issue have to be handled with care?

Here We Are, Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Now that you have decided whether you are a prescriptivist snoot or descriptivist slacker, or something in between, you are ready to start rendering your verdict on various grammatical dilemmas.

Give your verdict on each choice. Some comments appear at the end of this section. Check them after you have gone through the list.

  1. Who's there? A) It is I. B) It's me.
  2. The king will give Vashti's status as queen to someone A) better than she B) better than her.
  3. A) My mother likes the dog more than me. B) My mother likes the dog more than I.
  4. We must resist A) the devil B) the Devil.
  5. Their sin A) stank B) stunk to high heaven.
  6. The light A) shone B) shined in the darkness.
  7. Judas A) stoled B) stole C) stold the money.
  8. She gave birth to her firstborn son and laid him in A) a feeding trough B) a manger.
  9. She wrapped him in A) swaddling clothes B) strips of cloth.
  10. A) Samuel acted honorably like a judge should. B) Samuel acted honorably as a judge should.
  11. A) Samuel acted like a judge. B) Samuel acted as a judge.
  12. A) If I were God, we would be in big trouble. B) If I was God, you would be in big trouble.
  13. One of the Hebrew words often translated banquet is based on the Hebrew verb for drink. Should it be translated A) banquet B) drinking party C) feast D) party?
  14. Israel A) worshipped B) worshiped God.
  15. A) O LORD, you are our God. B) LORD, you are our God.

Comments on the dilemmas above

  1. Either way someone will complain, so why not avoid the problem and say I'm here?
  2. The issue is whether than is a conjunction or a preposition. Historical usage shows it may be either. Written in full, the first phrase would be better than she is. Hardcore Conjunctionites are not persuaded that better than her is okay, so if you have a traditionalist audience stick with the use of than as a conjunction unless you are aiming for a relaxed, colloquial tone.
  3. These sentences say different things, even though than acts like/as a conjunction in both examples. The first means she likes the dog more than (she likes) me; the second means she likes the dog more than I (like the dog).
  4. In the Bible the Devil is a proper names for Satan, not a name for the subordinate demons. So the Devil is correct, but no honor is intended.
  5. Irregular verbs are losing some of their irregular parts. Stank is the correct past tense of stink, but stunk to high heaven sounds okay to many people.
  6. Shone is correct, but shined is making inroads.
  7. If you listen carefully, you will notice that many speakers say he stold the money, but only stole looks right in print.
  8. Some think manger is old-fashioned, but farmers have told us cattle and sheep still use mangers and feeding troughs are for pigs (at least in Wisconsin).
  9. Swaddling clothes sounds old-fashioned until you google Amazon and find they sell swaddling cloths [sic].
  10. Traditionally, like should not be used as a conjunction.
  11. Example A means Samuel acted like a judge would, but he was not a judge. B means he acted in the office of judge.
  12. Were is the contrary-to-fact subjunctive, but this usage is fading in English.
  13. Let's be honest. If drinking is having an effect on what is happening, the translation must reflect that.
  14. Many authorities say worshipped is British and worshiped is American, but searching actual usage with Google ngrams shows that worshipped predominates on both sides of the pond. Large databases enable us to search what usage actually is rather than guessing.
  15. Modern usages prefers vocatives without O, but many readers like O in poetry and prayer.


As long as our language and our audiences have such marvelous diversity, authors and editors who are writing for a diverse set of readers or hearers will often find themselves between a rock and a hard place. Actions that will help you solve this dilemma are: lots of listening to all kinds of speakers, reading a lot of good literature, knowing your audience, finding a balanced position in the middle of the road, and accepting the fact that a communicator can't please everyone all the time.

A communicator's degree of freedom depends in part on whether one is acting as an author or an editor. Authors can shape their message to their audience's preferences and biases as long as they do not compromise their message or fail to tell their readers and listeners hard truths which they need to hear. Translators have much less freedom because their duty is to try to convey not only the message, but also the style and emotional impact of the document they are translating. This is even more true when the author is the Holy Spirit. We have no right to soften or "improve" God's message but must convey its emotional impact as best we can. This is true whether the message and language are "in season or out of season."

Thank you for your feedback on this topic. It will help us find the most comfortable spot between a rock and a hard place as we edit EHV. Our current practice is to use more formal language in the formal parts of Scripture such as prophetic oracles but to allow a more informal style in the conversations recorded in the Bible.

Supplements for Additional Study

Supplement I: A New Resource for Grammatical Study — Bryan Garner's Modern English Usage

Supplement II: The Battle Over Whom — Is whom dead or just dying?

Supplement III: Between a Rock and a Hard Place — part II:
Another set of 'rock vs. hard place' decisions involves those places in Scripture where, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, writers have used language some readers might consider to be too crude or too sexual. Should translators soften or hide this language with euphemisms as many translations do, or should they use blunt terms where Scripture uses blunt terms? Teachers who would like to read and discuss Prof. Brug's presentation of such dilemmas can contact him directly at to receive an electronic discussion guide. The discussion guide includes a consideration of the appropriateness of such discussion on the high school level.

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Liesl Ragner (Fox Valley Lutheran High School) 2016-10-10 3:27:23pm
I understand the point you're making about the wording of certain phrases and how it's important to capture the meaning of the text while still allowing Jesus to talk as a real person does. People are often more comfortable reading something that they can connect with instead of trying to understand something that sounds stuffy and old. I also enjoyed the fact that you touched upon the topic of capitalizing pronouns referring to God. What many people ignore is that fact that, if we capitalized all of the pronouns that refer to God, we would also have to capitalize those found in the prophecies in the Old Testament, and often those prophecies, while they do refer to Jesus, also refer to a second party, like the children of Israel.
My question for you is, when you have a word in the original language that has a deep, descriptive meaning, but is often translated into a short English word or phrase, how do you make that decision? (Example: I remember hearing a sermon once about a Psalm in which David uses a word to describe his suffering, but in the original Hebrew it meant something along the lines of "to be baked like a cake". How do you decide when to be literal and when not to?)
John Brug (Moderator) 2016-10-11 9:50:41am
This is an excellent question, Liesl. In some respects translation is more of an art than a science, so we have to wrestle with each case on an individual basis. If that same picture that is in the Hebrew will be understandable in English, even if it is not an everyday thing in our culture, we try to keep that picture. If we have a common English expression that says the same thing, but with a different picture, we will use the English equivalent but will include the literal Hebrew expression in a footnote. Sometimes it might take two English words to translate one Hebrew word and vice versa. A complication is that very often the etymological meaning of a word is no longer part of the meaning. A "manuscript" means something written by hand, but "by hand" is no longer part of the meaning. In such cases, we do not use the picture. After we translate, at least eight readers evaluate the translation and make suggestions. It is not uncommon that the translation which three readers like, two others do not. So it is always finding a balance. The first question is whether the author intended to provide a picture here by his word choice, If he did, we try to retain the same picture. Second choice is to use an English picture that means the same thing, Third choice--reluctantly conclude we can't carry over every nuance to English. What we can't get into the translation the pastor may be able to mention in the explanation of the text.
Katy Jahns (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2016-10-10 11:50:31pm
I am a Communicative Arts major so I appreciated your point on how communicators are often stuck between a rock and a hard place because it is impossible to please everyone. Even more it now seems like it is even harder with political correctness being so prevalent. I believe the editors of the Bible made the best grammatical decisions they could and all Scripture is God-breathed throughout all translations. I fall into the descriptive approach to grammar when speaking as I often sound things out to see what sounds better when making grammatical decisions. I also agree with Liesl's point below that we tend to connect better with words or speech when its comfortable and not outdated. However, when it comes to writing I think rules in the prescriptive approach are the best way to go because of the rules it sets.

My questions for you is where do you fall on this grammatical scale (descriptive or prescriptive) approach? Also, what, if any, of the grammatical myths do you believe in?

John Brug (Moderator) 2016-10-11 10:02:50am
I think in formal writing I try to follow the rules that most people believe are true even if they are not really true. To do otherwise would undermine your credibility of what you write. At the same time I resist the idea that a communicator cannot use informal or colloquial language in writing. Of the 12 myths--I practice all of them sometimes, but none of them slavishly. Often, I try to find another way of expressing the meaning which evades the issue. There are some examples in the course, The main considerations in tipping the balance one way or another are the genre of the communication and the main target audience, whom you are trying to win. Alas, sometimes you are just caught between a rock and a hard place, and you hope that the number who call you a snoot is roughly equal to those who think you are a slacker.
John Brug (Moderator) 2016-10-11 10:09:22am
If questions are posed directly to me, I will try to answer them by the next morning. If comments and questions are general and are seeking the opinions of the class, I will not normally enter the discussion until the discussion seems to have run its course. Normally that means I will leave the question in the hands of the class for a couple of days. We want class to teacher discussion, but also encourage class to class discussion.
Judy Kuster 2016-10-12 1:36:16am
John, would your committee ever consider keeping Luke 2 in the King James Version since it is so familiar to people and also uniquely connects generations - grandparents could recite it with grandchildren, but also remember learning it themselves from their long-gone grade school teachers, parents, or grandparents. "And it came to pass in those days. . . . ."
John Brug (Moderator) 2016-10-14 5:07:01pm
We would not keep it verbatim in the translation itself, but we were conscious of trying to keep a familiar sound.

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governing Syria. And everyone went to register, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the town of Nazareth, into Judea, to the town of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was from the house and family line of David. He went to be registered with Mary, his wife, who was pledged to him in marriage and was expecting a child. And so it was that while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son, wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Many congregations may continue to use the KJV version at Christmas just as they use the traditional Lord's Prayer, and we would not discourage it. Incidentally, during our research we found that both mangers and swaddling cloths are contemporary terms, and both are sold on Amazon.

A similar problem is Psalm 23. Again we tried for a familiar sound, but felt that in interest of accuracy we had to make a few changes. "You anoint my head with oil" gives the wrong impression because it makes people think of the anointing of a king. The Hebrew verb means "drench" and does not refer to anointing to an office, but to being drenched with expensive lotion at a banquet. (The same spirit as a Gatorade bath).

The LORD is my shepherd.
I lack nothing.
He causes me to lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me.
Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You set a table for me in the presence of my foes.
You drench my head with oil.
My cup is overflowing.
Surely goodness and mercy will pursue me all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the LORD forever.

Your question highlights another area in which translators are between a rock and a hard place. People love familiar passages, but at times being more accurate has to receive attention also. We already anticipate that people are not going to like "you drench my head with oil," but we are confident that if it is explained that this gives a more accurate picture of what is happening, people who love the Word will appreciate it. Again, we expect that people might continue to use the beloved KJV edition at funerals, for example.
Incidentally, people's love of familiarity is one reason that we have promised that if someday we produce a new edition of EHV, we will never deny users the right to use the old edition, to which they have become accustomed.
Tom Kuster (Bethany Lutheran College) 2016-10-14 9:46:51pm
I like "drench my head."
Patrick Ernst (Bethany Lutheran Theological Seminary) 2016-10-18 11:12:01am
I agree. Evocative words are all the more engaging.
Eric Woller (Bethany Lutheran College) 2016-10-14 12:01:39am
John, great article. I appreciate your discussion on English grammar and the challenges of converting a Hebrew or Greek phrase into a meaningful English phrase. Obviously, that's not always straight forward. That's where a well trained pastor can be helpful; to dig into a deeper meaning of a complex phrase. I believe that if our seminaries ever stop requiring competence in Hebrew and Greek for their students, it's over. The clear message of Law and Gospel will be lost. I pray that we will always have highly trained Hebrew and Greek scholars within our confessional Lutheran circles to train our pastors and to some day (many, many years from now) create the next bible translation.
John Brug (Moderator) 2016-10-14 9:22:36am
Luther called the biblical languages the sheath that holds the sword of the Spirit. While we need to emphasize the importance of pastors being well trained in the biblical languages, we also need to give people the confidence that when they are reading an accurate English translation, they are reading the Word of God, because the essence of the Word of God is the divinely intended meaning, not the shape of the letters or the sound of the voice. An accurate translation conveys the Word of God through which the Spirit works.
A paperback introductory edition of the New Testament and Psalms of our EHV translation is scheduled to appear next year for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation and work on the Old Testament is more than half done, so God willing it will not be "many years."
Alyssa Voit (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2016-10-16 10:13:18pm
I found this article to be very interesting as this is something that is a very real problem in our society. As someone who writes a lot of formal papers for my college courses, I find myself often times to have a prescriptive approach when writing. Even when conversing on social media in an informal setting, I find myself holding very high standards in order to be seen as a credible source. On the other hand, I do not find myself speaking so formally as it is unnatural and cold sounding. Such grammar rules are effective for speaking factually or quite blankly, but such language can also turn people away as it does sound cold and sharp. In regards to the Bible, I think that there is a middle of the road solution that needs to be found (as this is between a rock and a hard spot!). Jesus needs to be seen as a credible source, yet he also must speak out of love and compassion. As a college student, I also must add that when I read translations that are not so "perfect" I get the sense of Jesus being a real person and that I can have a relationship with him as I understand his message. With some other translations, Jesus' message is so above me I cannot make it out; interesting considering a translation can have that much effect on someone! I think it is important to remember that the Bible is there for us to know Jesus and have a relationship with him and that starts by being able to read his message of love in a way that let's us understand it truly.
John Brug (Moderator) 2016-10-17 9:40:09am
Alyssa, your comment reflects what we are trying to do. But like many things in life, it is easy for us to state the principle, but hard to apply it in practice. When a communicator is aiming at a very specific, narrow audience, it is relatively easy to find the right tone. But the more diverse the audience is, the harder it is to address all their needs equally. And the Bible has the most diverse audience of all--everybody.
In the case of preaching. this communication problem applies not only to the outer form but also to the doctrinal content of the message. The most important issue for a preacher is the right balance of law and gospel. When dealing with an individual, the pastor, if he listens to the person carefully, can get a good idea of whether the person is clinging to a sin and needs a strong dose of law, or the person is crushed by guilt and needs pure gospel. In preaching, in a single message the pastor has to address the needs of a diverse group with different spiritual attitudes with a mixture of law and gospel needs.
In secular messages, the communicator can have some more general messages as well as more narrowly targeted pieces, but a Bible translation must always be aimed at the most diverse audience possible. The content, of course, must not be adjusted to the audience, but must reflect what God has said regardless of whether or not the audience wants to hear it.
Patrick Ernst (Bethany Lutheran Theological Seminary) 2016-10-18 11:28:06am
I find all of this information about the Wartburg Project and Bible translation approach very beneficial.

I would heartily agree with Dr. Woller below who emphasized the importance of continuing competency among pastors of the biblical language, and I respect what seems to be your willingness to take a descriptive approach (through the de-bunking of English grammar myths). These two ideas (pastors must work in the biblical languages; Bible translation can break the "rules" to communicate) bring to mind the first Wartburg translator who wrote about the great struggle "to make the Hebrew writers speak good German!" For Luther, I think we would have to admit, the goal was not teaching his people Hebrew and Greek, but to teach them the saving word in German. If we truly expect our pastors to maintain an ability with the languages, we should expect our pastors to be able to give us the wooden, literal translation, with all the imagery and word play of the original text. Pastors learn the languages so that everyone else doesn't have to learn them, and our translations ought not force them too either, even if we think we are being generous by giving the people Hebrew with English words.

Your work is greatly appreciated! I anticipate the EHV with great joy.
John Brug (Moderator) 2016-10-19 9:39:46am
Thank you for emphasizing these two points. We do not want people to think they cannot really read the Word of God unless they read Hebrew and Greek. They should read with confidence. We also want people of our church to understand the importance of investing all the time and effort which we do in order to train pastors who can check the accuracy of translations and bring out some of the nuances that are offered only by the original language. It is sometimes not possible to carry every nuance into a single English translation. Footnotes can help overcome this difficulty, so careful readers should not just skip over the footnotes. Sometimes readers will prefer a straight, smooth reading, not getting bogged down or distracted with footnotes. This might be true especially in devotional reading. But in close study of the text students will want to consider each footnote. For this reason, our translation will have more footnotes than is typical for a "bare-bones" translation, and for the future, we plan a full study Bible. Notes can help the reader who does not read Hebrew and Greek get closer to the original text.
Hailey Krause (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2016-10-18 3:32:16pm
I personally believe that God's word and mission should be at the forefront of all biblical text and capturing the meaning is essential, but I also think that everyone interprets the Bible and God's word differently. Is it our mission and purpose to except all the different translations and versions of the bible. As long at the overall concept of the message is still visible, the way God's word is portrayed should be free. I think the capitalizing the pronoun referring to God is vitally important because we are referencing a higher power, but only when we are referring to God such as He, Him or His. The title of this article "Between a Rock and a Hard place" is relatable and evident in most of our Christian lives. We are often faced with decisions that drive us between a rock and a hard place and the only way out of these situations is to trust in the Lord and follow God's plan for you. This article exemplifies our duty and responsibility we have as Christian leaders to share God's word and mission.
John Brug (Moderator) 2016-10-19 10:06:40am
Bible students can benefit greatly from comparing several translations. This has become much easier with computer Bibles. People can carry many Bible translations to class on their phones. If a person's favorite translation is quite literal, it is helpful to compare it with several translations that are more interpretive, and vice versa.
However, not all translations are reliable. The Jehovah's Witnesses made a translation that diminishes the deity of Christ. A Latin version of Genesis 3 makes Mary rather than Jesus the one who crushes the serpent's head. A popular paraphrase version spoke of sharing the blessings of Christ's blood rather than sharing the blood of Christ in 1 Corinthians 10:16, thus setting aside the real presence. For this reason, when choosing a new translation readers should check several reviews or evaluations of it and check key passages against their knowledge of biblical doctrine. Often passages about the sacraments are a good starting point for such a study.
Judy Kuster 2016-10-23 9:52:21pm
John, How have you translated Psalm 118:1 (and found in other places)? It is translated differently in various translations - and, for, because - His mercy endures forever. Some translations leave the conjunction out. I learned "and His mercy endures forever." Years ago I learned "and" in grade school where we used the old LCMS Hymnal where "and His mercy" was sung at the end of the communion service. The Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary (ELS) also uses "and His mercy." We sang it today near the end of the service. I probably won't change it because when I hear "for" or "because" it has the feeling of conditional to me. I asked Tom and I know it is the same Hebrew word as for the first "for" (for He is good). Is it imperative to be consistent or is "and" all right the second time? "Oh give thanks unto the Lord, for (1) He is good and (2) His mercy endures forever.
John Brug (Moderator) 2016-10-24 11:06:41am
Psalms is still subject to some final editing, but here it what we have now in verses 1-4.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his mercy endures forever.
Let Israel say now: Yes, his mercy endures forever.
Let the house of Aaron say now: Yes, his mercy endures forever.
Let those who fear the LORD say now: Yes, his mercy endures forever.
There are actually two significant translation issues in this passage. One concerns the word "for." The other concerns the word "mercy."
The Hebrew word "chesed" has traditionally been translated “mercy.” In recent decades some translations began to translate “faithful love” or something like that. Then the translation was shortened to “love.” The EHV does not follow this practice because it blurs the distinction between the related but distinct words “love” and “mercy.” We use the traditional translation “mercy.”
Now to the issue about which you asked. Your question raises the interesting and important issue of what to do when one Hebrew word may have many shades of meaning. The word in question is the Hebrew word" ki." Ki has so many possible nuances, that it is often called “the multi-faceted ki.” Ki may function as quotation marks. It may be translated “that, indeed, for, because, but, although, when, or if” depending on context. Virtually all of its many shades of meaning can be understood as nuances of the basic meanings “that” or “indeed.”
So where does that leave us in regard to Psalm 118? We can start by taking our translation and plugging in the base meaning “indeed.”
Give thanks to the LORD, indeed he is good,
indeed his mercy endures forever.
Let Israel say now: Indeed, his mercy endures forever.
Let the house of Aaron say now: Indeed, his mercy endures forever.
Let those who fear the LORD say now: Indeed, his mercy endures forever.
Actually, in this case, it would be possible to leave it at that and to consistently translated ki as “indeed.” But there does seem to be a progression here. The first verse invites us to thank and praise God and provides us with a reason for doing that: because he is good and his mercy endures forever. We retain the more traditional word “for” because of its familiarity and liturgical use, and we say it twice because that is the style of Hebrew poetic parallelism. In the next three verses the worshippers express their emphatic agreement. We bring this out with the emphatic word “Yes!”
Your question is important because it bring out the tension over whether to try to translate one Hebrew word with one English word (which helps English readers track the occurrence of Hebrew words) or bringing out the shades of meaning more clearly. Both approaches have their value but clearly communicating the meaning takes priority.
Your question also provides an illustration of the truth that what appears on the surface to be a very simple translation issue may actually be more complex that at first appears.
Judy Kuster 2016-10-24 12:30:40pm
Thank you for your extended and interesting explanation, John, over one little word. It is not an easy task you are undertaking! I am not a Biblical scholar, but I will still choose "and" since to me it is two things we are thanking God for (his goodness and his endless mercy), and I believe "and" illustrates that clearly.
Sarah, Hannah 2016-10-25 2:06:54pm
In the article, "Experienced readers of the Bible have very definite ideas about what a Bible should sound like, but different groups of those readers have very different ideas about what a Bible should sound like." We did not realize how much thought goes into translating the Bible. It is surprising to know that many people will be disappointed because they have different ideas on how the Bible should be translated. This aspect caught our attention because the translators have to make an important decision on how they are going to translate the Bible.
In the twelve myths you talked about by Bryan Garner, are you going to have your translators use these myths when you translate the Bible? This is important because many people believe in these myths and use them in their everyday language.
John Brug (Moderator) 2016-10-26 9:28:58am
We are confident devoted Bible readers understand that in every translation there will be differences of opinion about the best way to render a certain phrase. That is why most recent translations have footnotes pointing out some differences. For every Bible translation, catechism, hymnal, and liturgy users will have some things they like better than others, but we work together to have something we can share.
We often follow the "myths" because they are not wrong or bad grammar. They are one widely practiced view of English grammar. But they are not the only view, and they are more a reflection of formal writing than the standards for conversation. The Bible is a combination of formal statements and vivid conversation, so translators should not rigidly adhere to one standard but should consider the context in each case.
Adam Westra and Anna Hemmelman (Martin Luther College) 2016-10-25 2:07:15pm
We appreciated that this article made us think about our preferences when it comes to writing. We realized that we lean more toward prescriptive writing. Having things in proper grammatical format is what makes the most sense to us. While you do want the Bible to be able to reach as many people as possible, the Bible isn't a book that we should conform to please people with. It was beneficial to have an opportunity to think about this topic.
So, what we understood is that you plan on, in the Wartburg project, ignoring the so-called "rules" of grammar classified as myths. It was interesting to see all of these rules that we have learned in our writing classes be called myths. Do you think that grammar and English instructors should stop teaching these rules to their students?
John Brug (Moderator) 2016-10-26 10:02:45am
No, we do not ignore them, and teachers should not stop teaching them, but they should also teach as Garner does that these rules are not objective rules that have been handed down from heaven, but they are the opinions of grammarians, based on reading a lot of good writing, and that the experts often do not agree. Garner is quite prescriptive, but he realizes on the basis of his study of massive data in Google ngrams that many of the rules he and other grammarians believed were wrong. For example, many dictionaries say "worshiped" is the correct American spelling and "worshipped" is British spelling. Checking the ngrams Garner found that this was false, and "worshipped" is the standard spelling in both countries. The list of "myths" or "superstitions" is not our list. It is the list of Garner, whose book Modern English Usage is an extremely important resource. It is the handbook we use the most, because it balances prescription versus description and formal versus informal. Garner's goal in writing the list of superstitions was the same as ours: to get communicators to think about the issue and to always consider the context. There are many rules in life that have validity but cannot be followed slavishly. Punt on fourth and long. Take the 3-0 pitch, etc. Communicators and coaches know that rules are good, but there are exceptions, and part of being a good communicator or coach is knowing when to follow the rule and when not to
Interestingly, the spell checker in this system is flagging "worshipped" as misspelled. But the evidence in the ngrams show that it is the spellchecker that is wrong. Spelling is another area in which there are thousands of contradictory rules. It is good to adoption one spelling for sake of consistency, but the Bible does not. It sometimes spells the same name two ways in one verse.
Faith Otte and Dan Pitzner (Martin Luther College) 2016-10-25 3:44:19pm
"Authors can shape their message to their audience's preferences and biases as long as they do not compromise their message or fail to tell their readers and listeners hard truths which they need to hear. Translators have much less freedom because their duty is to try to convey not only the message, but also the style and emotional impact of the document they are translating. This is even more true when the author is the Holy Spirit. We have no right to soften or "improve" God's message but must convey its emotional impact as best we can" (conclusion, para. 2).
This passage of the article caught our attention because it made us realize how difficult it can be to tell the ideas in God's Word in the way they were originally intended. It is natural for us as human beings to question the meaning and purpose of the Scriptures, but translators must pray for guidance to make sure they display God's Word in the best possible way.

"Experienced readers of the Bible have very definite ideas about what a Bible should sound like, but different groups of those readers have very different ideas about what a Bible should sound like. In addition, readers know many Bible passages by heart from various translations. They expect a new translation to improve the readability of the text but without making any noticeable changes to familiar expressions" (para. 4).
This section prompted the following question: how will the Wartburg Project address the iconic passages that many Christians know by heart? For example, John 3:16, Romans 8:28, and even the first half of Luke 2 are committed to memory by many people, usually beginning at a young age. Will this project change the wording of these passages, or will the words stay the way we all learned and know them now? How major a factor is nostalgia or memory in your decision making process?
John Brug (Moderator) 2016-10-26 10:09:59am
Familiarity or nostalgia as you say is a factor, but the decisive factor must be clarity of meaning, We strive to preserve familiarity, but if something in the familiar rendering does not clearly communicate the intended meaning it must be changed, See the postings on Psalm 23 and the Christmas story above. Our translation of John 3:16 keeps "only begotten." An article on this will soon be posted on our website.
Caleb and Chloe (MLC) 2016-10-25 3:44:29pm
The quote, "it makes Jesus sound like a book rather than a living speaker" is an interesting way to look at it because the way it is written affects the way people read it. If someone can't read the words and picture themselves actually saying what is being written then they have a harder time comprehending what is actually being said. Where as if the wording of the phrases is more relatable the people will be able to connect easier and feel more comfortable reading what is being said.

One question we had was - with all the different ways we might work to spread the Gospel right now, what were the major problems with the existing Bible translations that motivated the Wartburg Project to move forward with their own translation? We understand the King James Bible is difficult for modern readers to understand, but are all the "contemporary" translations lacking in important ways?
John Brug (Moderator) 2016-10-26 10:55:20am
WELS is currently following "the eclectic approach," which allows for use of more than one translation. Sometimes the difference is a matter of style. Does the translation try to stick more closely to a literal rending of the Hebrew and Greek? NASB and ESV tend toward this pole. Does the translation more freely depart from the Hebrew and Greek expressions for greater readability? NIV 84 and 2011 are closer to this pole? EHV aims for the middle spot between these translations. On our website we have a document called "rubrics" which is a more than thirty page document explaining our translation philosophy and choices.
Sometimes the difference goes beyond style to substance, and some translations do not express biblical doctrine correctly. The following is repeated from a posting above:
Bible students can benefit greatly from comparing several translations. This has become much easier with computer Bibles. People can carry many Bible translations to class on their phones. If a person's favorite translation is quite literal, it is helpful to compare it with several translations that are more interpretive, and vice versa.
However, not all translations are reliable. The Jehovah's Witnesses made a translation that diminishes the deity of Christ. A Latin version of Genesis 3 makes Mary rather than Jesus the one who crushes the serpent's head. A popular paraphrase version spoke of sharing the blessings of Christ's blood rather than sharing the blood of Christ in 1 Corinthians 10:16, thus setting aside the real presence. For this reason, when choosing a new translation readers should check several reviews or evaluations of it and check key passages against their knowledge of biblical doctrine. Often passages about the sacraments are a good starting point for such a study. Other issues in contemporary translations include a less clear reflection of direct prophecies of Christ and the use of so-called “gender inclusive language.”
In an ideal world the issue of Bible translations would rest purely on the merits of the translation. But as we know, we do not live in such a world. In the real world practical issues cannot be ignored. When a Bible translation is owned by someone else, they can change it without our consent or they can deny us the right to continue to use the old version to make new works. They have control of the price, etc. Our translation has promised to never deny people the right to continue to use old versions of the translation. This issue is of practicality outside the topic of this seminar, which is translation philosophy and practice, but it is a necessary factor when people are considering whether or not to make a translation.
Another factor is the joy and blessings of working together on a Bible translation. Over 100 WELS and ELS members are participating in some aspect of our work from translation to proofreading--pastors, teachers, and lay people. Working together on such a project not only produces a great increase in Bible knowledge and a better understanding of the process and difficulty of translation. It also gives an example of how to work together harmoniously on a project in which there are many differences of opinion, In a team project everyone does not get their first choice on every issue. This is an important thing to understand about the process of a team translation and a good lesson for the life of the church in general,
Heriberto Diaz (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2016-10-27 2:03:25pm
I'm a Human Social Services major and I understand how Communication can be stuck between a rock in a hard place because one cant always make everyone happy. People often proffer to read something that is easy to read instead of reading something that is old and hard to understand. This article was very interesting and true because college students deal with this throughout there school years.
Sarah Beischel (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2016-10-28 8:59:39pm
Between a Rock and a Hard Place is a great title for this article. Communicators today are faced with so many different rules and views on how writing should be. I know even since I first started taking writing classes, grammar has changed. I do some writing for social media for a business and it's hard to find a healthy balance between not sounding too formal, but sounding professional at the same time and keeping up with the ever-changing trends in how your writing should sound. When it comes to the Bible, I think knowing how the message was originally written can be important, but it's also nice to have a more modern translation to relate to. You brought up a good point with the issue of whether or not to capitalize pronouns referring to God. I have been taught both sides of the debate and always struggling with what to do when referring to God in my writing. Overall, this article really intrigued me because it addresses an issue I can relate to and I understand just how hard it can be to please everyone when writing.
John Brug (Moderator) 2016-10-30 2:59:30pm
Thank you for your comments. I hope the article helps communicators be more aware of the problem and to think about how to deal with it. A further complication is that people who comment on your writing are not necessarily representative of your audience. People who do not like something are more likely to respond than those who do like it, Three out of four responders may not like something about your writing, but this ratio may not be at all typical of your audience as a whole.It may be that the number who did not like it are relatively few.
Laurel Gallman (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2016-10-31 8:18:38pm
I agree, it really is difficult to find a healthy balance between sounding formal, but not too formal and relatable, but not too casual especially when writing for a business. You don't want the business to come off as pretentious because that will drive away customers, but you don't to make them sound like they could couldn't care less about the business. I also agree that it would be nice to have a more modern translation of the Bible, but the more traditional translation of the Bible shows the importance of the word of God.
Yussef Sahraoui (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2016-10-29 12:44:13pm
I am really intrigued because I was unaware of the difficulties many interpreters encounter but I also understand it because everyone has their own interpretation of what is the better way of saying things. I think that nowadays it has become increasingly difficult for everyone to refer to touchy topics such as politics, religion or racial backgrounds because everyone is worried that they might involuntarily say something that may have the potential to offend someone. The way I see it is that you must adapt the type of wording you use to what the scenario requires. If for example you have a rather sophisticated audience, than maybe use some higher end wording whereas if the audience seems to be more relaxed than the common wording should be fine. After all, the audience is what determines the end product right? Also as long as whatever is interpreted can be clearly understood, than there should not be much complaint from any party involved.
John Brug (Moderator) 2016-10-30 3:14:42pm
Here again the key is balance. Often we can aim a piece of writing at a specific level of audience, but sometimes the audience is very diverse and then the writer's job is tougher.
In the real world you will receive complaints which are not really justified. You need to listen to them, but as I mentioned above, you should realize that they may not represent your readers.
Another example of "a rock and a hard place" is physical and mental disabilities that sin has brought into the world. Blind people are not "visually disadvantaged." They are blind. Sometimes people are crippled by an accident or war. Neither of these conditions define the totality of the person, but we have to described the evils sin has brought into the world as the evils they are. Many similar issues arise in the area of gender identity etc. Can we use terms that would seem to condone sin? This is another whole aspect of the issue that we did not touch on because, for the most part, it does not involve Bible translation.
Judy Kuster 2016-10-29 9:53:25pm
One last quick question. I'm wondering how the translation will capture the very strong statement in Hebrews 13:5. The Greek phrase, I believe is literally translated - For He says, "I will not never forsake you. Never. Never." So many strong negatives. I believe it only appears that strong one time in the Bible. The strength of that is a great comfort. I was disappointed when our ELH hymn book changed the hymn I learned which ends "I'll never, no never, no never forsake" to "He never will leave, He will never forsake."
John Brug (Moderator) 2016-10-30 3:44:18pm
"I'll never, no never, no never forsake" is a great line. "He never will leave, He will never forsake" means the same thing, but it lacks the emotional impact of "I'll never, no never, no never forsake." One of the directions we give our translators is to try to preserve not only the meaning but also the emotional impact of the original, This is, of course, easier said than done.
Hebrews 13:5 is a good example of how language is complicated. In some languages double negatives intensify, In English they cancel. Literally the passage says," not, not will I leave, not ever not not will I forsake" ( also two different Greek words for "not" are used). In English of course we cannot use a double negative to make an intense negative. We can't say "not ever will I never leave you." A further complication is that this is a translation of the Hebrew of Deuteronomy 31:6 to Greek. Deuteronomy 31 uses simple single negatives, but it uses the stronger of the two Hebrew words for" not."

Right now we have "I will never leave you. I will never forsake you" because it will match Deuteronomy, and we can't really duplicate the double negatives. Would it add punch to say " Never will I leave you. Never will I forsake you"? Would adding ! help?
Judy Kuster 2016-10-30 11:58:47pm
Thank you again for another careful and thoughtful reply, John. I had never heard of the triple negative in that passage before listening to a speaker on a cruise ship explain the triple negative in that passage. It became very meaningful to me after asking Tom to check the Greek who verified it and then a short time later visiting a very good friend in intensive care, singing a hymn for her with the last line, "I'll never, no never, no never forsake." This evening I looked at the and the majority of the 25 Bible translations there, including NIV, KJV, NKJV don't reflect the triple negative. One did - Young's Literal Translation "No, I will not leave no, nor forsake thee." The Weymouth New Testament uses two negatives twice - I will never, never let go your hand: I will never, never forsake you."

I suppose an exclamation mark hints at the emotional impact, but if it really is three negatives, why isn't it "I will never, never, never leave you or forsake you" ? To me that speaks how strong God's promise is.

What an incredibly difficult, and important job your team has undertaken. Thank you for a challenging discussion.
Rachel Heyn (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2016-10-30 12:41:06am
This is a definitely a difficult topic. As you said, you just cannot make everyone happy, and I suppose that is why there are so many different translations. People just do not always agree, and that is because there is so much to consider in translation, just as you mentioned. I am so used to writing formally for school, and I understand that this shows professionalism and credibility, but at the same time I also recognize that that is just not how people communicate in real life. and in that way, the formality present in writing sometimes can seem a little forced. Unfortunately, I think that this ends up being a little counterproductive. That happy medium between proper formality and genuineness of the message is really difficult to find. Context is very important to determine what kind of writing should be used. I think that we are so tied to some of our English grammatical rules that force us into rewording our writing into a very stiff and unnecessarily formal jumble of words. For example, the rule about not ending a sentence with a preposition can really interfere with something that otherwise would make perfect sense left as it would be spoken. It is definitely a difficult process, and I think it is one of those things where the translator is left to pray and ask for guidance in honoring God by staying true to Scripture and the Truth within it.
Can you tell me a little more about what the Evangelical Heritage Version translation is like, mentioned in the “about” section?
John Brug (Moderator) 2016-10-30 4:06:23pm
Our key word is balance. In many areas of life "there are ditches on both sides of the road." We want to drive down the middle. Our translators receive a more than 30 page document on our translation principles. Starting for Advent 2016 our Scripture readings for each Sunday can be downloaded from our Wartburg Project site. This will give a good idea of our style. Our site has many other articles on our style. Below are a few samples from our twenty-three guidelines.The full statement is in the rubrics on our site.

Presuppositions of the translation:

Thesis 1: The duty of a translator is to convey all the meaning (or the openness to more than one meaning), all the beauty (or the ugliness), all the style (high or low), and all the emotional impact of the original text into the translation.
Thesis 2: Thesis 1 is impossible.
Thesis 3: Thesis 2 is not entirely correct.
Thesis 4: In bits and pieces a translator can come close achieving the aims of thesis 1.
Tetelestai > It is finished. The only major thing wrong with this translation is that it has too many words. Were it not for the weight of tradition, we could probably improve the translation by reducing it to a single word, “Finished!”

1. Although any skilled linguist who is fluent in the source language and the receiving language can do an acceptable job of rendering the basic. literal sense of the words of Scripture, the most important qualities for a Bible translator to possess are a thorough knowledge of the whole message of Scripture, the aptitude to let Scripture interpret Scripture, and a humble willingness to submit to everything which Scripture says. It was this aptitude, more than the depth of his knowledge of the original languages that made Luther such a great translator.
2. Translators will strive for a balance between preserving the original meaning and producing English which sounds natural, but the preservation of meaning takes priority.
5. A translator should not be too locked in to any one theory of translation whether so-called “dynamic equivalence” or “literal translation” because:

a. Literal (or more precisely, literalistic, word-for-word) translations sometimes give the wrong meaning, or they do not communicate clearly in the receiving language.
b. Dynamic equivalence, though a worthy goal, is not fully possible. Almost always “something is lost in translation.”
c. We would be happy with any translation that was dynamic and equivalent, but too often translations labeled “dynamic equivalent” are either not equivalent or not dynamic. We would like every translation to be both “meaning equivalent” and “emotional equivalent.”
d.The translator will have to weigh whether a more dynamic or more literal approach best conveys the divinely intended meaning on a case-by-case basis.

8. The translator should not specify one level of language and usage to be used uniformly throughout the Bible because the level of language in the Bible itself varies greatly from book to book and from passage to passage. The goal is that the level of difficulty of the translation should be similar to the level of difficulty of the original. In many Bible passages the original language was neither “common” nor “contemporary.” If the word in the original is uncommon or archaic, the translation should try to reflect that.
9. The translator should not drain the color and variety of expressions from passages or level the language by downgrading the imagery. If Scripture uses five different words for a concept, the translation should reflect that diversity.
10. If the text uses a metaphor, the translator should use a metaphor; the same one if possible. Do not make metaphorical expressions prosaic.
11. Poetry should look and sound like poetry. Unusual and emphatic word order may be retained to some degree as it is in our hymns. In translation of poetry pay attention to rhythm and to balance of the length of lines, especially for musical performance.
12. The goal of a translator is not so much to make Judeans sound like 21st century Americans but to make them sound like Judeans who speak good English. Consider the example of the gospels which maintain a Semitic tone in the speech which they record in Greek. The goal is not always to say it “the way we would say it” but to make Judeans speak in a way we can understand.
14. The translator will try to be euphemistic where the original is euphemistic and blunt or coarse where the language of the text is blunt.
17. Translators should be wary of importing their own stylistic preferences into the translation against the preference of the original author, unless such changes are necessary for clear communication in English.
18. Wherever possible, when the text, on the basis of Scripture, is open to two equally valid understandings, the translator should attempt to preserve both options. When this is not possible, one of the options can be preserved in a footnote.
19. In using “gender-accurate language” the translator will strive to be inclusive where the original is inclusive and exclusive where the original is exclusive.
21. Sometimes there is no definitive, consensus solution as to how to translate a given text, so the translator has to make his best effort and use that result. For example, a precise identification of each gemstone in the high priest’s breastplate is beyond our reach. In cases where the meaning of a term or verse is uncertain, this may be indicated in a footnote.

Caroline Kuether (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2016-10-30 1:26:55pm
I thought this was a really good article to read, especially with my future with Communications. Your opening section really explained how hard it is to please everyone when writing. I understand the difficulty of translating the bible and pleasing people. I think the bible should be written so people can understand it. Because of that I don't think you need to be grammatically correct throughout the whole bible. Not many people use correct grammar in conversation and I think it is okay to have Jesus use incorrect grammar if it is in common conversation. Although Jesus was perfect and would speak in correct English, he would connect to those around him so they would understand him. Whether or not someone uses "who" or "whom", that's not the important part. Knowing what the message means is important. People understand the message more when using conversation grammar. This is also a good way to translate for people who aren't educated. There should be a way for everyone to understand the bible, not just pastors and scholars.
Raquel Glinos (Wisconsin Lutheran College ) 2016-10-30 3:12:18pm
After reading your article I took a step back to assess today's day and age and how the different generations communicate and try to get there points across. I agree with you on the face that people do get stuck in a rut on how they can communicate there message in an effective manner. Especially in today's time when many people are now taking advantage of technology my e-mailing or having video conferences, but even then they might think they are taking the easy way out, but for some it could be hard to interpret the message they are trying to send. I am a Communicative Arts major and I have been taught in all of my classes the importance of preparation for a speech and how to get your message across in way where your audience will understand it, so again I totally see where you are coming from. This article has helped to be a better a commuter in everyday life and when I have to give a presentation which is a lot and i thank you for sharing this. I think that if more people read this they would have a better understanding of the importance of communications and getting across clearly.
John Brug (Moderator) 2016-10-30 4:13:00pm
Thanks to everyone for your comments. I hope this helps you understand that clear communication is hard work. Do a lot of listening and reading of good communication. Try your best to be a good communicator, but do not be too frustrated or take it personally if you find yourself between a rock and a hard place and you can't please everyone all the time. This is especially true in communicating God's Word, because so much of it is contrary to people's normal way of thinking.
Eden Ehlers (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2016-10-30 5:58:30pm
In the beginning of your article, you mentioned that it is almost expected that people will not always agree with your point of view. When you are writing, do you find yourself consciously thinking about the opposing views or do you generally stick to your personal views and beliefs when choosing your words?
John Brug 2016-10-31 11:57:32am
Thanks for the question, Eden. It brings up an issue we have not talked about. There are two different issues here: The first is whether people will disagree with what you say and the second is whether they will disagree with how you said it. Our seminar was talking about the second of these.People who support what you said might disagree with how you said it--they think you should have used a different form of grammar or spelled a word differently. This is the issue we have talked about in the seminar. In this dilemma you have to consider your audience as a whole and try to find the right style for the audience as a whole and for the form or genre of writing. Most of these are matters of judgment in which there is no absolute right or wrong.In this matter you can compromise your own personal preferences for the sake of the audience.
If you are writing about moral issues or doctrinal issues, in many cases, there is an absolute right or wrong as determined by God's Word, In these cases you cannot compromise the message to please the audience. But you should consider a tactful way to present the truth as Paul did with the Athenians in Acts 17 with his message about the unknown God. But that is another subject for another seminar, so I will just give one example. If I was talking to Christians about Islam, I would speak more directly about what is unbiblical about Islam. If I was speaking about Christianity to Muslims, I would focus on the positive message about Christ because that is what wins hearts. The truth cannot be compromised, but Christian communicators need to remember that their goal is not to win the argument but to win the person. This cannot change the message , but it does have an impact on the order and style in which you present the message.
Tanner Schieve (WLC) 2016-10-31 9:01:19pm
When you talked about the right and wrong of God's word, isn't there adiaphora that you cannot answer? In these moral situations, can it be hard to make judgements without offending those around you?
John Brug (Moderator) 2016-11-01 12:47:05pm Presenter
If things are true adiaphora, they must be left free. God has not commanded them or forbidden them. Adiaphora are not free for me to use if my freedom is harming someone else, such as if I offer a drink to an alcoholic or urge a Catholic to eat meat on Friday. A church may choose not to allow alcohol at receptions on its property to avoid offense in the community. The use of adiaphora is another area in which we may be between a rock and a hard place--we have to give consideration for the weak but we also have to resist attempts to take away our freedom.
Nikilette Cottini (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2016-10-31 1:11:42pm
I am a Communicative Arts major which is pretty much communications with an emphasis in business. I appreciated your approach on how communicators are often stuck since everyone does communicate differently and interrupt differently. I am not the best grammatical writer, but I think some of it is because my public education growing up was not the best. In fact the English department at all of the high schools in my town tested the lowest and had the highest turn over rate for employing teachers.
John Brug (Moderator) 2016-11-01 12:50:59pm Presenter
Bur now you are overcoming that. God's blessing as you keep growing.
Kelsey Sitz (Wisconsin Lutheran College ) 2016-10-31 2:04:47pm
I always figured that it was a hard task to make things more understandable as the years go on, but I never really was able to quite understand the process of how hard it actually was until reading this. The fact that you have to not only worry about not changing the meaning of the words in the Bible, but also worry about how people will respond to the grammatical changes seems like quite the challenge. I understand why we need to be able to make the speech patterns more "contemporary" because being a young woman I know that I do sometimes struggle reading the older versions of the Bible. I can read the NIV much easier than I can read the King James Version, but I feel like I have to think more when I read the King James and therefore sometimes get more out of it. On the other hand however, there are things that are completely over my head in the King James so I also can miss out on certain aspects and parts of the readings. I think there is give and take for both sides of people wanting it to stay more traditional and those who want a more contemporary speech pattern.
John Brug (Moderator) 2016-11-01 12:40:01pm Presenter
The variety of available translations help people reach both goals.
Anna Naumann (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2016-10-31 2:58:22pm
I agree with what you say that communicators can be known as snobs for how they give their speeches. Personally, the grammar rules I follow depend on who I am talking to. There are rules I take in place when writing a paper for a class rather than writing a note to my grandma or friend. When writing papers you should not use contractions, but if I am writing a letter I will because it is faster and informal. When I was reading the myths I found that I do a lot of them. I sometimes use since instead of because and there are times I refer to my reader as you. As hard as it is to break these habits, it just sounds like it is the ok thing to say.
Laurel Gallman (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2016-10-31 8:08:34pm
I definitely agree that the grammar rules change based on who you are talking to. I find myself not only using different grammar and word choice, but even speaking in different tones depending on who I'm talking to. In a professional setting, I will talk more formally and will a more steady tone and if I am talking to my friends I use a more casual deeper voice. I am also guilty of using since instead of because, it is something I've done pretty much my whole life so it is very difficult to break. Thanks for sharing your personal experiences and thoughts!
Laurel Gallman (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2016-10-31 6:55:44pm
I found this article very thought provoking. I had no idea the Warburg project even existed until now. I'm very torn on the idea of updating the Bible, I do believe that making it more "readable" can help better get across the message of God and make it more relatable. However, I feel that if we change the Bible, it would get rid of the power it has. Yes, Jesus was a human, but he wasn't just a human, he was and is God as well. Jesus is perfect, so why would a perfect being use anything but perfect grammar?
John Brug (Moderator) 2016-11-01 12:37:57pm Presenter
For Jesus and the writers of the Bible "perfect grammar" would be that which would communicate the truth most clearly. This would not necessarily correspond with the definition of "perfect grammar" in the rhetorical schools of Athens.
Think where we would be if the Christian church stopped updating the wording of the English Bible . Even the King James Version we use is much updated from the 1611 edition.
The power is through the divinely intended meaning, which can be expressed in many languages and through successive phases of the same language. Moses and Ezra very likely would have had significant problems understanding each other. Our pronunciation of Hebrew is much different than that of Moses and we would not recognize the form of the Hebrew alphabet which he used. The living message of the Bible is expressed by living language.
Ryan Michael (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2016-10-31 11:36:38pm
I really found this article intriguing. One of the subjects I find at least some success in is writing and grammar (English). I owe a lot of that to my mother who is an English teacher at Racine Lutheran High School in Racine, WI which is where I went to high school. When I would have her proofread papers of mine for certain classes it would always be interesting what exactly she would say in regards to what I did wrong and how I should go about fixing it. It was neat hearing the insight you presented in the article. Some of the issues that were brought up were reminders for me, however, I found it interesting hearing additional knowledge from a voice I am not usually used to hearing. Great read.
John Brug (Moderator) 2016-11-01 12:28:01pm Presenter
Hats off to the high school grammar teachers who are often between a rock and hard place as they help young communicators learn to find good balance in their approach to grammar.
Kenya Green (Wisconsin Lutheran College ) 2016-10-31 11:53:06pm
This is by far one of the most interesting papers I have seen during this conference because it talks about something that many people struggle with. In everyday life you make the choice of how to speak to someone whether it be formal or informal. One thing I have struggled with is grammar I am a great writer, but I tend to overlook grammar or just forget about it. I feel like if people get what I am trying to say that something as simple as grammar shouldn't matter. The approach you and your colleagues are taking on writing a new translation for the bible is interesting. The way you word things will make it more relatable for generations to come. I respect the original translations but we do not speak like that in todays society. This translation would provoke younger generations to not only read the bible more but understand it better. I look forward to reading from your translation of the bible once it is published.
John Brug (Moderator) 2016-11-01 12:24:52pm Presenter
Thanks for your comment. The New Testament and Psalms should be out this year. Watch for announcements from Northwestern Publishing House.