Better Bibles Blog made a post asking if translation-work should have its own course material. I want to give an illustration of why theology should be part of the tense and self-contradicting world of translation priorities. This is yet another generic post trying to sort out the difference between exegetical accuracy (the technical accuracy of a translation) and communicative accuracy (making sense) in translation.
Adam made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, "With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man." (Genesis 4:1, TNIV)
Really, this seems to be a strange reading. While one could make a case that all men are children, one cannot say that a woman gives birth to a man in good English idiom. If the TNIV is willing to break concordance for the sake of having gender-inclusive renderings, why is this not done here? I would have liked to see the word "person" here, as it would (rightly) affirm that newborns are persons in God's eyes. If there's one point I'd have liked to see "person" in Genesis, it would probably be here.
When human beings began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that these daughters were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of the human beings and had children by them. (Genesis 6:1f, 4, TNIV))
Compare ESV: When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them.
The word "man" is generalized to human beings. Here, this messes up the contrast between idolatrous humanity (the "daughters of men" being the female half of these) and the sons of God. I highlighted the way the word "man" is variously rendered in this passage. Note that "these daughters" avoids saying "daughters of men" by pointing back to the unpossessed daughters born to them (which is arguably possession). This lets them avoid that weird phrase "daughters of human beings" once, though it messes up a contrast that is part of the passage's theology. Later on, they use the phrase "daughters of the human beings" anyway. OK. Break traditional readings to make good English style. That's fine. But don't break tradition to make an equally if not more awkward expression.
For those just joining me: I do not feel very convinced of the angelic interpretation here (Matthew 22:30 precludes it, IMO). I instead believe that the "sons of God" were members of Seth's lineage and "daughters of men" were of Cain's lineage. The "two ways" contrast from chapters four and five carries over, since the entire flood narrative is an expansion of the genealogy of chapter 5. The genealogy that begins in 5:1 doesn't end until 9:21.
...Alternately, it could be dynastic kings picking women for their harems. But that seems less germane to the past two chapters, so I stick to the Sethite-Cainite interpretation.
Back to TNIV-bashing: one also does not see the lustfully inappropriate aspect within the behavior of the sons of God. They're picking women who are attractive -- it is not to be given a positive connotation like "beauty." Plus, they're "taking in marriage" and not "marrying." Here, at least, it is important to retain that image because it emphasizes how terrible their behavior was.
Lastly, it's important to note that humanity was on the surface of the earth. Yes, I know: it's awkward, but it contains meaning. ALL humans were swept away in the flood, but eight were swept away safely in the boat.
The TNIV rendering makes it look like there were angels that politely courted and married women. The possibility of other meanings for "sons of God" is suppressed by this reading, and so is the inappropriate nature of the sons' behavior.