I was looking at some Bible study material on Titus 2 and I notice that the KJV uses a verb form "to deny" while in effect the NIV attaches adjectives "no" this or that. (Titus 2:12) "Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;"(KJV). "It teaches us to say 'No' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age," (NIV). It seems to me, first of all, that while the emphatic denial of the KJV comes across spoken as well as written, the capitalized "No" of the NIV is emphasized only in print. Be that as it may, saying "no" is more modern usage while denial sounds old fashioned, which is why, I suppose, they made a New International Version.
I hope my reader doesn't think I'm nitpicking, as how language conveys ideas is an important subject.
Writing forty years ago, the linguist Sapir started the ball rolling by demonstrating that in language man created an instrument that is quite different from what is commonly supposed. He states:651
I don't think it should be that much of a surprise to Christians that language is a powerful molder of human thought, as God specifically broke up the languages at the Tower of Babel in order to have a Semitic language line producing eventually the Hebrew (Aramaic) and Greek which God chose to reveal his word in. The KJV dialect most closely conveys it to us, being a dialect never spoken in 1611 or at any other time as the common language, only as a sacred dialect to convey God's word. Trying to transpose God's word back into a common (adjectival) language is to revert to the unifying tongue at Babel that God disapproved of.
Okay, let's take the examples from the Bible study. A janitor at a school had trouble scrubbing off the lipstick from the mirrors in the girls room where the females had pressed their lips. The principal gave the girls a lecture to no avail, so the janitor called them in to demonstrate his cleaning method: dipping the sponge in the toilet, he then proceeded to wipe the mirror with it. After that demonstration the lipstick smears stopped!
First there was the lecture about the lipstick on the mirrors which would have done no good except that an action accompanied it that motivated the girls to concede. It was the action, not the verbal correction, that did the trick, the janitor's dipping his squeegee in the toilet and wiping the mirror with it, not the words of the principal.
A similar lesson can be seen in the recent movie The Forty Year Old Virgin in which a man's cronies discovered that at forty he was still a virgin, so they made it a project to help him overcome this "failing." First they took him to a bar to pick up a drunk girl to help him solve his problem. Well, the girl was so drunk that she vomited on him, then told him she'd still go to bed with him, but then he didn't want to, of course. Shades of toilet water on the mirror.
Then he was coached to pick up a fast girl at the music store. Yes, she was willing, but she was altogether too crazy for a sane man to get involved with.
Finally he meets a girl, a divorcee whom he really loves. They are interrupted in the bedroom by her teenage daughter who doesn't understand why she isn't allowed to have sex with her boyfriend if her mom can have sex with hers. He continues as a virgin to be a good role model.
Toward the end of the movie, they get married, the priest telling them, "For God's sake consummate this marriage," which they proceed to do. But then it is something special, and we are altogether in sympathy with the no-longer-virgin who waited until then. I mean, at no time in the movie is he told to say no to premarital sex. In fact his goal is to say yes. But we so identify with how it works best when he waits until his wedding night, that that's the message conveyed despite the lack of moralizing.
Okay, let's take the lesson of the parrot and the dog. Is our congregation altogether too much into cartoons? A dog that reacts violently to a parrot's squeak is not going to sit idly by while the plumber works. Is the preacher nuts? I'll give a better example.
I know a woman whose friend had two expensive exotic birds worth, say, $5,000 apiece. Her live-in boyfriend had a $400 python that slept inside the nightstand and would crawl out through a hole. One day they left and forgot to cage their birds and when they got back there was only one bird flying around but the snake had a big bulge in its belly. They were devastated.
I'm reminded of an incident at the University which got some play in the student paper. Seems a coed spent the night with a Negro student whom she had had sex with in the past but she told him she didn't want to have sex that night. In the middle of the night his passion got the better of him and he had sex with her. There was no law of the community that he violated or could be found guilty of, but the University had a new student conduct code with its own criteria under which he was guilty of "rape" of some kind. Some people considered him a dangerous rapist while his lawyer said that if the girl really didn't want to have sex, she shouldn't have "tempted biology."
The couple with the snake and the birds tempted biology also. The bird was the natural food for the snake, and they shared the same apartment, and people aren't always on guard, they leave and forget things, and that snake could happen to get hungry at that time. Just withholding technical permission is not enough to stop biology. A guy might wake up with an urge while they are in unguarded sleep. We don't convict him of rape because how can we be sure what happened?
To deny passions (KJV) means to avoid the opportunity in the first place, but withholding technical consent, saying No, (NIV) hasn't completely denied it. There was some kind of debate, and there are other related debates) when "the total orientation of the two languages was different, forcing the two groups to attend and fail to attend entirely different things in nature," the one group saying, "well, she said no, didn't she?" while the other says, "yes, but she acted contrary to that saying."
Rather than belabor that issue, let's look at what the pope says about Christmas being too commercialized. He says we should endeavor to spend it in "meditation, sobriety, and joy," which I'd say would fulfill (Titus 2:12) "Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world." To that end I went to a feel-good movie (for joy) but didn't hang around the mall with the displays or even with the girl I was with (sobriety) but went home and had some quiet time (meditation). The NIV formula would have left me wandering around the mall saying no to the assault of messages, no to whatever developed with the girl, and no to the images of a second feature.
We have a Bible that gives us one good formula (KJV) and we've changed it (NIV) to conform to our more modern language, but in the process we've changed the formula to reflect our modern values where we don't have "good girls" of modest dress and behavior, but lots of willing girls with a vocabulary that includes "no."
What is the point of belonging to a restoration movement church that uses a changed Bible as an authority where even the pope gets it more right?
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Copyright © 2005, Earl S. Gosnell III
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Licence.
Permission is hereby granted to use the portions original to this paper--with credit given, of course--in intellectually honest non-profit educational material. The material I myself have quoted has its own copyright in most cases, which I cannot speak for but have used here under the fair use doctrine.
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Scripture quotations marked NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION or NIV are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.
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