On the NASB, Markan Priority, and the Raising of Censurable Bugaboos

Rick Mansfield has posted a rather mystifying report regarding the New American Standard Bible: according to a source at the Lockman Foundation, which he consulted after encountering a statement to this effect made by one of the translators more than a decade ago, “the rejection of Markan priority is indeed a conviction on the part of the NASB translators” (emphasis his). It is truly a shame that Rick’s source at the Lockman Foundation has requested that the particulars of their private correspondence not be disclosed. It would be interesting, to say the least, to weigh any claims made regarding the relevance of the rejection of Markan priority for biblical translation against specific instances, both textual and translational, that such a commitment is thought to influence.

I wonder, however, if Don Wilkins (the translator whose statement prompted Rick’s inquiry) and the Lockman Foundation are actually making a correct statement about this matter. The translators of both the original NASB and the 1995 Update are known and a full listing of their names is available online; and while I don’t know every name in the list, my first inclination regarding some of the scholars whose names I do know wouldn’t be to think that they reject Markan priority. But more to the point, note, for instance, that the Lockman Foundation likewise states that all NASB translators “support the philosophy of literal translation” (cfr. the listing of translators linked above). But is this factually accurate? Could this be said, for instance, of translator Moisés Silva in view of his published views on this matter, and of his participation in such translation projects as the New Living Translation and the Spanish Nueva Versión Internacional? There seems to be something of an inclination for sweeping generalizations at work here.

Rick also mentions that it is a matter of concern for (at least some of?) the translators “that adherence to Markan priority may affect one’s view of inspiration,” which is profoundly disturbing. This idea certainly seems to have taken root among many fundamentalists, and even turns up in the articles and responses in the book Three Views on the Origins of the Synoptic Gospels (review forthcoming), a survey of explicitly Evangelical options. Now, it is well known that I myself am an unrepentant neo-Griesbachian, and consequently no friend of Markan priority; but I have no sympathy whatever for the type of fearmongering that effectively demonizes perfectly viable positions by perversely casting aspersions on the integrity of the confessional commitments of the scholars who hold them. One could only hope that such reprehensible tactics would be abandoned altogether, but sadly, realistic individuals shouldn’t hold their breath.


6 responses to “On the NASB, Markan Priority, and the Raising of Censurable Bugaboos

  1. I can handle and indeed approve of rejecting Q, but Markan priority? I don’t know about that. I’m stickin’ with Goodacre.

    Anyway, you’re right, looking at the list, there is a good number that I would not have expect to reject Markan priority (or their view of inspiration):

    Dr. Harold Hoehner
    Dr. W. Hall Harris
    Dr. Buist M. Fanning
    Dr. Moisés Silva (as you mentioned)
    Dr. Paul Enns (especially considering his recent book on inspiration)

    Added to these is William Lane, who published his commentary on Mark in 1977. The fact that Lane was one of the translators makes the Lockman Foundation’s (LF) claim utterly wrong. Lane’s NICNT volume, published in 1974, does hold to Markan priority! Unless Lane changed his mind between 74′ and 77′ when the original NASB came out, I cannot even comprehend the LF’s words.

    On top of this, the fact that by Harold Hoehner (Bibsac 133:266) and Silva (WTS 39:2:375) in their reviews of the commentary say nothing regarding criticism of Lane’s Markan priority position suggests to me that neight Hoehner or Silva would hold such a position either.

    Simply put, LF cannot be correct in its claim at all.


  2. Yes, everything you’ve written above agrees with my own perception of the matter. I’m still unsure about this, though, and the example of Harold Hoehner is one of the reasons why. You’re right: I would not expect that he’d be one to reject Markan priority, but the “Three Views” book I mentioned in the post seems to imply that he believes in the Two Gospel Hypothesis, and Dan Wallace seems to cite him as an example of “scholars who are not predisposed toward Markan priority [and] would date Matthew as early as the 40s” (see note 22 here). So, what’s the truth of the matter?

    I’m even unsure about Silva, a scholar whose every work I have actively sought to read (though I have not yet read everything, of course). Frankly, I can’t recall any instances of his stating what his actual views on the Synoptic problem are–so again, I don’t know! (But perhaps he did let on in his articles on Stonehouse and Redaction criticism [WTJ 40:1&2]; I just don’t happen to have those accessible.)

    But in any case, again, I imagine you’re right: this sweeping generalization from Lockman must be incorrect.


  3. I left a comment on Rick’s post concerning William Lane in particular. Rick informed me that Lockman’s statement was limited to only the 95′ revision committee, which changes things and makes slightly more sense of their words.


  4. The idea that Mark was the first Gospel to be written is just another hypothetical approach to solving the Synoptic problem. It is also a political issue among biblical scholars. I’m sure that those who reject the priority of Mark have not been able to come up with a plausible solution/alternative:)


  5. Mike> Thanks for the update! I imagined that was the case, as well–but even then, note that most of the people you mentioned as giving you pause on the matter worked, in fact, in the 1995 revision! Does Enns reject Markan priority? Do Fanning, and Harris, and Hoehner? It seems to me that the question is still very much valid.

    My comment about Moisés Silva actually concerned the statement on their webpage that “all [translators] support the philosophy of literal translation” rather than about the Markan priority bit. They don’t qualify this statement in any way, but again, the published views of translator Silva say otherwise. He might have agreed to work on this translation using such principles, but that’s it. Again, I was just pointing out that there seems to be a penchant for overstatement over in La Habra! :-)

    Lou> Oh, don’t let Farmer and Orchard, Farrer and Goodacre, or worse, Thomas and Farnell, hear you say such a thing! ;-)


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