Ad Gloriam Dei

"Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." - 1 Corintians 10:31

"Let us pursue the things which make for peace and those by which one may edify another"- Romans 14:19

"As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend." - Proverbs 27:17

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Trinity RP Goes ESV

Trinity RPCI Session have made the progressive step of replacing the church's use of the NIV with the ESV. The two main reasons stated were as follows:
  1. Although the NIV has served the congregation well and is a generally accurate translation, it is not as accurate as could be desired.
  2. Our Session learnt through private discussion (correspondence?) with a contact in the Christian book industry that the publishers of the NIV are pushing the erroneous TNIV more and the NIV will not get the emphasis it once had. (To some of those present, the original statement seemed to say that the correspondence was with the publishers themselves. This has been corrected through discussion with a member of session. Please also note that although Zondervan publish the NIV in the U.S. , the publisher in the U.K. is Hodder.)
The ESV was chosen as a replacement for the usual reasons:
  1. It is a really accurate translation.
  2. They believe it is based on "better" texts than the NKJV.
  3. They believe it is less wooden than the NASB.
  4. Although it is less readable than the NIV, it is more accurate, which is more important.
Another interesting point made by Teddy (and one I have often made myself) is that the ESV, NKJV and NASB are all very close in their translation, coming in the same genealogical tradition of the AV, whereas the NIV does not.

Teddy called the ESV the translation that he had been longing for his whole life, and after using it and examining the Greek over 4 years, he was really pleased with the quality of translation.

I had hoped that there might have been a move in the NKJV direction, after Teddy's public announcement at an EP lecture about 9 years ago (?) of his concerns over the direction that the NIV was taking and his question of whether we should move to the NKJV. I suspect his opposite view of the NT textual question held him back and when the ESV came along, this was the one for him.

Although, being unconvinced at this stage of the reasons for departing from the Traditional Majority Text used by the Church over the ages in God's providence (see this article from a non-MT scholar and I don't mean the Hodges-Farstad MT, nor am I a TR man), I'm glad that our Session have made this progressive move; the ESV is an excellent translation as is generally acknowledged.
I also really respect them for having the courage to make such a radical change.

I'm almost tempted to switch (esp. for the advantages of a common translation), but not quite.

(Due to the error relating to non-existent correspondence with the NIV Publisher, the following comments have been edited to remove all reference to this.)

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would disagree that the ESV is "less wooden" than the NASB, on two counts:

1) The NASB isn't wooden; rather it is very readable.

2) The ESV is not superior in readability.

Having used the NASB since I was a girl, I don't believe it is wooden. It is actually a very beautiful translation that I find very easy to memorize and read. Yes, in places there is some slightly awkward phrasing, but relatively few, and in most places the flow is very good. (Although I can only speak for the older version, which I still use as I have memorized far too much from it to switch to the newer version! Plus I'd miss the "thee" and "thou" in the Psalms!)

The ESV is a good translation; I think however it has just as many moments of slight awkwardness or lack of flow that the NASB has - which, thankfully, is again not very often! Overall they are both very readable.

If I could go back in time and choose again, I'd probably go with the NKJV because at the moment I'm convinced that it is based on superior texts (the Byzantine). But I have memorized so much from the NASB that I can't leave it now! Also, there are not many significant differences between the Byzantine and Alexandrian texts, and those can be easily noted. So I'm happy to stay with one of the three very best versions available today. Praise God that we have such good versions available, all done by God-fearing evangelicals!

Sunday, January 14, 2007 2:23:00 pm  
Blogger Timothy Davis said...

I pretty much agree.

I have used the RSV, NIV, NASB, NKJV and ESV, and I still think the NKJV is the most readable (apart from maybe the NIV), even though I was brought up on the RSV (very like the ESV) and NIV.

Sunday, January 14, 2007 2:24:00 pm  
Anonymous R. Mansfield said...

I've yet to see any substantial evidence that the ESV is more readable than the NASB. Compare the archaic negative word order in Matt 7:1 in the ESV vs. the much smoother rendering in the NASB. Also look at the non-contemporary use of "unawares" (well, maybe it's contemporary for hillbillys) in Heb 13:1. Compare that with the much better reading in the NASB. Both versions can be wooden at times, but my experience has been overall that the NASB is better. The problem with the ESV is that it is weighed down with too much baggage from the RSV because the ESV revisers didn't go far enough. Both the NASB and the ESV are weighed down by the anachronisms of the Tyndale/KJV tradition.

Personally, I like the TNIV. I wish that the TNIV would completely replace the NIV, but I haven't seen Zondervan doing this at all. Case in point is the Archaeological Study Bible released earlier this year only in the NIV (and a Zondervan rep informed me that it will never be released in the TNIV). And there are so many more offerings in the NIV than the TNIV from Zondervan.

Sunday, January 14, 2007 2:26:00 pm  
Anonymous R. Mansfield said...

Also, I think it is unfair to call the TNIV "worldly-oriented".

Sunday, January 14, 2007 2:31:00 pm  
Blogger Timothy Davis said...

Mr Mansfield,

I saw your other favourite versions on your blog. I can't agree with most of your choices (e.g. the Message, NLT, etc.), which are not accurate at all.

The Holy Spirit is communicating information to us through the original languages that is lost, changed or added to by men in these translations. A certain amount of dynamic equivalence is necessary, but only what is necessary should be done.

As for "worldly-oriented", I mean that the TNIV has capitulated to the world's demands for political correctness. Please see this statement signed, among others, by several of the faculty of your own Southern Baptist Theological Seminary at Louisville.

We should not add to, or take from God's Word.

Sunday, January 14, 2007 2:32:00 pm  
Anonymous R. Mansfield said...

Regarding Bible versions I like and you don't, of those you mention it's important to keep their purpose in mind. Eugene Peterson, the translator/paraphraser of the Message does not recommend it for use in church himself. And I would never recommend a paraphrase as a primary study Bible. There are some things the NLT does quite well, and the 2nd edition is more conservative than the 1996 edition.

I would disagree with you that the TNIV is politically correct. I couldn't give a rip about political correctness. But if you have a particular verse you'd wish to discuss, I'd be glad to.

As for professors at my seminary, it wouldn't be prudent for me to engage that area of discussion, and I'm sure you understand. But I can report on good authority that there are also professors here who do approve of the TNIV. They just aren't as vocal about it as the others.

I agree that we should not add to or take away from God's Word, but just keep in mind that a translation is NOT God's word, but merely an attempt to communicate God's word as accurately as possible. But we must remember the distiction or we risk idolatry.

There are strengths and weaknesses in both formal and dynamic equivalent approaches to translation which is why we need both. Augustine is quoted in the preface of the 1611 KJV as recommending that the Bible be studied in parallel translations and I wholeheartedly agree.

Currently in addition to the original languages, my primary parallel translations are the NASB, HCSB and TNIV.

Sunday, January 14, 2007 2:33:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

College chapel here has TNIV and Greek. I tend to use ESV / NASB / Greek for my own study, with occasional use of Nick King for the NT.

Sunday, January 14, 2007 2:34:00 pm  
Blogger Timothy Davis said...

Mr Mansfield,

My point about paraphrases, so-called gender-inclusive translations and inaccurate translations is that they are adding to and taking from God's Word. They don't take verbal inspiration and the implications of it seriously enough.

As for the TNIV's political correctness and other problems, please see the statement that I had previously linked.

I agree with using various translations, but only those which try to be accurate, otherwise which is God's Word and which is man's? (Or which parts of God's Word have they dropped?)

I mentioned your professors to encourage you to think about this matter and maybe discuss it with them.

Sunday, January 14, 2007 2:35:00 pm  
Anonymous R. Mansfield said...

Technically, all translations are from human sources. Every translation adds and takes away from God's Word in one way or another. All translation requires a certain amount of translation decisions to be made which requires interpretation. That doesn't mean that some aren't better than others, but each one has to be weighed against the original texts.

And you would have to understand that I disagree with the statement regarding the TNIV, but that shouldn't imply that I don't respect a number of the individuals who signed it.

Sunday, January 14, 2007 2:36:00 pm  
Blogger Timothy Davis said...

The point is that translators should try to communicate the meaning of the words without losing content. The unnecessary dynamic equivalence and paraphrase of some don't try hard enough. The ESV, NKJV, etc., try hard not to lose content. The others say, "It really doesn't matter if we lose content or whether I add content that the Holy Spirit hasn't given. It's how it is adapted to my taste or the taste of my audience that counts."

Sunday, January 14, 2007 2:38:00 pm  
Anonymous R. Mansfield said...

The others say, "It really doesn't matter if we lose content or whether I add content that the Holy Spirit hasn't given. It's how it is adapted to my taste or the taste of my audience that counts."

That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. No translator in evangelical circles has ever stated anything like that. The translators whom I have known personally such as Thom Schreiner, Daniel Block, Robert Stein, and Gerald Borchert (all on the NLT committee) took their goal of translating God's Word very seriously and wouldn't have dreamed of making a statement such as that found in your caricature.

That's a straw man statement if there ever was one.

Sunday, January 14, 2007 2:38:00 pm  
Blogger Timothy Davis said...

Mr Mansfield,

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the NLT a paraphrase like the Living Bible, or is that an incorrect assumption on my part?

What I have expressed is my belief about translation. I stand by it, however well-meant the desire to paraphrase to suit a particular audience is.

Sunday, January 14, 2007 2:39:00 pm  
Anonymous R. Mansfield said...

The NLT is in fact a dynamic equivalent translation, not a paraphrase like it's predecessor. The original Living Bible was paraphrased by Kenneth Taylor and reviewed by a committee. It was actually a paraphrase of the 1901 American Standard Version.

The New Living Translation is just that--a translation. It's a bit freer (or more dynamic if you will) than the T/NIV, but it's definitely not a paraphrase. The first edition came out in 1996 and a second edition was released in 2004. The second edition is much more conservative and corrected a number of criticisms placed on the first edition.

Sunday, January 14, 2007 2:40:00 pm  
Blogger Timothy Davis said...

Mr Mansfield,

Thanks for the information about the NLT, I didn't know that it had departed so radically from its predecessor's 'translation' philosophy. Sounds like it should have been given a less misleading title.

If you can't see that this is motivated by the taste of the relevant audience, then so be it, but it appears to me that that is the case whatever the higher motive may be behind it. Adapting your approach to a particular group is not of itself wrong, but if this adaptation involves unwarranted removal and/ or addition to the words given by the Holy Spirit, whether by paraphrase or unnecessary dynamic equivalence, then this is wrong. Clearly the NLT comes under this heading.

Sunday, January 14, 2007 2:41:00 pm  
Anonymous R. Mansfield said...

I understand, brother.

I'm not totally convinced you completely understand the purpose, point, and method behind dynamic equivalency, but there's no need to argue further. I don't know you or your background, but I often come across people who haven't explored both sides of the issue, or in this case have only read critiques of dynamic equivalency without reading anything from a positive methodological viewpoint. I'm really convinced that both formal and dynamic translations are necessary. I want access to both.

The problem with straight formal equivalency is that often metaphors or idioms are not fully communicated. Not always, but in some cases.

I can refer you to a short blog I did on this issue comparing Job 31:9-10 in the NASB, TNIV, and NLT. I feel as if I demonstrated fairly conclusively that the TNIV (which would sit in the middle of the formal-dynamic spectrum) communicates the intended message (in the particular passage I was addressing) best. The NASB was so literal that it obscured meaning. The NLT was too dynamic in my opinion and the original metaphor itself was lost. Take a look for yourself here.

And feel free to leave your own thoughts in the comments of that post.

Finally, if you ever really want to explore the issue--so that at the very least you can say you're knowledgeable of the issues--I highly recommend a recent (2003) book, The Challenge of Bible Translation (ISBN 0310246857). Here is the link to it on Amazon.

God bless you and your ministry.

Sunday, January 14, 2007 2:43:00 pm  
Blogger Timothy Davis said...

Mr Mansfield,

Thank you for sharing with me more of your perspective on this issue.

I have read lots of arguments on both sides of the debate. The real question is whether dynamic equivalence is necessary. The danger of using it when it isn't necessary, is that you lose the force of the message, or important details. The NLT does this in the passage that you quote.

Re. Job 31:9,10 on your website, I think that the NASB is clear enough. The others interpret as well as translate. The NLT may lose the force of all the idioms, but the TNIV loses the force of the last one ("let others kneel down over her").

The description is clear enough. If one doesn't understand it, then one has led a very sheltered life! (Such a one would probably misunderstand what sleeping with a woman means!) You don't need "your mind to be in the gutter", as you say. It is a normal, transitionary position during ordinary, God-given sex within marriage.

The Holy Spirit has used phrases like "lie down with" and "know", etc., to describe sexual intercourse. HE CHOSE not to use these phrases here. Why didn't he use one of the other phrases? What the translators are saying to Him is, "We know better."

The thought of others kneeling down over one's wife is surely a powerful and disturbing one. It is very graphic and God meant it that way FOR A PURPOSE.

God is not as prudish as pietists would like (not that I’m accusing you of this). God shocks at times for a point.

God uses idioms for a purpose. He isn't as banal as some modern translators.

It has been noticed by historians and linguists that Wycliffe's translation moulded the English language. Historical Protestantism educated the people and raised them up. Many modern translators do the opposite. They dumb-down and sink with the liberal educational system.

There is a place for some overly-dynamic translations, but more for those who are poorly educated, or have English as a second language. Even then, poorly-educated inner-city teenagers would have no problem understanding the NASB when it refers to "kneeling down over her"!

Sunday, January 14, 2007 2:44:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you an expert in greek and hebrew? Who allowed you to disagree with someone who has studied them for many years?

Sunday, January 14, 2007 2:45:00 pm  
Blogger Timothy Davis said...

My friend, I think your argument is misdirected. You attack the person, rather than the argument. This is a non-argument, commonly known as an 'ad hominem' argument, one of the most basic logical fallacies.

I may not be an expert (that’s for sure!), but I do have sufficient knowledge of Greek and Hebrew to make judgements between translations for many passages, as I can work out the literal meaning from the originals with some of the best lexicons and compare translations.

One doesn't need to be an expert to make a general judgement of how much various translations communicate the information contained in the original, you just need to have some basic knowledge, esp. as most differences don’t involve working out the exact tense of a verb, etc. Undoubtedly it is more complex in some cases (and sometimes only the most proficient scholars may decide), but for most cases the real experts have already done the work in the major lexicons, and you just need some good linguistic 'sense'.

In judging between translations it is mostly a case of whether a translation is justified in discarding some of the information in the original for the sake of readability. This is a philosophical question or common sense judgement, rather than a technical question of Greek or Hebrew.

I would also note that there are many "experts" in this world who are wrong, and there are many experts who disagree with other experts. This goes for translation and textual criticism as for any other area. You will even find that the most influential opponents of the faith are accounted "experts", e.g. Richard Dawkins. Does that make them right?

An expert is not right merely for being accepted as an expert. He is right because his argument is right, or wrong if it is wrong.

Before the Reformation, one could not question the priests or experts, but God has set us free in Christ. God allows us to disagree; no man has authority over my judgement, so no one needs to "allow [me] to disagree". I may respect a man with great knowledge and experience, but that does not make him infallible and beyond question. I should listen to what they have to say, but then one must make a judgement (or decide that one is not able to make a judgement).

I don't claim infallibility (certainly not!), but that doesn't stop me making judgements and discussing my opinions with others. Let others prove me wrong and I will readily confess it. In fact that is one of the main points of my blog. If one doesn't express one's opinions to others, then one cannot have one's judgements corrected by others.

Moreover my discussion of Job doesn't actually require a knowledge of Hebrew, although I have looked at it in the Hebrew. It is clear to any intelligent person which translations take a literal approach and which a dynamic. Is the dynamic equivalence justified, or is it removing information that the Holy Spirit wants us to know and be made available to the ordinary reader?

I hope that this answer comes across in an irenic spirit, and if you think you have a justifiable criticism, esp. if you see flaws in my argumentation about translation, then please correct me with respect and love.

“A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all... patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition...”

2 Timothy 2:24,25

I hope that I have done this.

Sunday, January 14, 2007 2:52:00 pm  
Anonymous Andrew Kerr said...

Hi Timothy.

Andrew Kerr here.

Colin Burcombe told me about the blog so I thought I would check it out.

Was interested to find out if you knew why the KJV translators used Holy Ghost in all but I think seven occurences of pneuma in the NT (according to CB)? Was it to stress the internality/externality issue as one website has suggested or to make a point about the divinity of the Spirit?

My main reason for putting a comment was just, having a personal interest in the LXX, to see EJ Young's comments on the doctoring of the Greek Bible. Shame on me. I need to go and read the comments of EJY. But just to say at this point, albeit rather prematurely, that I think that the matter of the translators (which I touched upon fleetingly in my MTh on the LXX messianic psalms)and their origin, is a complex matter, and there are some good arguments (not that I would call them conclusive from my research to date) to suggest that the LXX psalms, at least, are likely to have had a strongly Hebraic Jeruslamite influence. To be fair though (he says pulling in his horns), it is generally accepted, that there were multiple translators of the LXX and that the later books (for example the prophets), translated after the Torah & Psalter, are less impressive in terms of a one-to-one verbal equivalence. However, having said all of that, there is some evidence, that the LXX may have been translated from variant copies of the original autographs (again not altogether clear). The other alternative is, as EJY posits, that the LXX, particularly texts such as Jeremiah (with which I am not altogether up to speed with) were clipped by the LXX translators/translator of Jeremiah. That to my mind seems like a bold step, guaging by the quality and generally one-to-one verbal equivalence method of the Pentateuch and Psalms. I would be cautious about ditching so quickly the LXX readings as inferior without careful analysis as to why they made their choices, partly because they would have been chosen for their scholarship, I think, say for example, rather anachronistically, a Beza or Melancthon or Erasmus, AND because this was the authoritative translation, the KJV, of the Early Church, quoted by the Apostles and beloved of Christ.

So I guess I've got that off my chest. And I'll go to the bookshop and get a copy of EJY.

It would be good to talk sometime soon about the version issue, as I have to by my boys their first bibles. I regard it as a tragedy and shame and reproach upon evangelicals that we cannot even agree on one bible version as a standard. And I say that as a confused KJV teenager, an overzealous NIV uni student and now a tentative ESV user. We need, quickly, to my mind, to settle the matter for didactic, expository, learning & unity issues.

In Him

andrew kerr

Tuesday, February 27, 2007 5:30:00 pm  
Blogger Timothy Davis said...


I appreciate the interaction. The idea of this blog was to mutually sharpen irons, but I'm not sure how much is going on.

Let me make it clear, in case you don't know, that I am strictly an amateur. My work is electronics design, not linguistics. I have a basic working knowledge of Greek and Hebrew to get me by, but I have studied the whole area of Bible translation quite a bit (too much!).

Now to your comments...

Holy Ghost in the AV
I've often wondered this myself, but my suspicion is that it is probably down to the self-avowed traditionalism of the translators (vs. the Puritans, who they accused of being too scrupulous in casting away some of the traditional translations), e.g. the infamous use of the word "Easter".

I just happened to come across this comment when referencing Young in my study of Jeremiah. My knowledge of the LXX is the standard fare. I have often read criticism of the loose translation of the LXX at times. It does have great value in understanding the Hebrew. (Any thoughts on why "chesed" has been so frequently translated "steadfast love" in the RSV/ESV? I assume that this is following Koehler/ Baumgartner, but why did K/B reject the traditional mercy/kindness/ lovingkindness translation? I've really got to ask Norris about this, because it is really bothering me. Such an important word!)

By the way, the blog on Young's comment was accidentally missing the "read more" link, so you may want to look again.

English Versions
When I saw the ESV, I threw my arms up in disgust and said, "Why reject the NASB? Not another one! We really don't need the formal equivalence camp split like this!"

My opinion has now changed to, "Well, it looks like the ESV is taking over the NASB's role and it is increasing becoming a standard translation in the Calvinistic world. It also is causing many NIV readers to move to a better translation. Fair enough."

I am currently torn between the NKJV and ESV. Our session opted for the ESV just when I was choosing a Bible for Peter, which caused me a lot of hard thinking. (Did you see my blog on the Early Readers' NKJV?)

On the one hand, I have a deep attraction towards the benefits of a common translation. I was hoping it would gravitate towards the NKJV, but a significant proportion of the Reformed world seems to be now adopting the ESV. It must be noted that we can often have blinkers due to our own parochialism. The NKJV still far outstrips the ESV in terms of usage and adoption.

On the other hand, I am deeply sceptical about the Alexandrian-biased eclecticism that is the current "orthodoxy" in NT textual criticism ("the new TR"!), and which the ESV reflects. I think it has some real methodological and evidential issues, which I see that the more objective eclectics are also raising. (I recently read an article by John Wenham that echoed my own concerns.)

My own current position could best be described as Byzantine-priority. This makes it difficult for me to wholeheartedly embrace the ESV, although the differences may be minor.

Another issue with the ESV is that it is too tied to the RSV and although making great strides in improving on the RSV, it still retains a certain amount of woodenness from that translation in certain areas (esp. the Gospels). I think that despite all the hype about the beauty of the ESV, the NKJV is more beautifully written.

More seriously it still retains some translations like Gal. 1:16: "[God] was pleased to reveal his Son to me...", instead of the literal "[God] was pleased to reveal his Son IN me..." (a profound difference which it acknowledges in the margin, but why in the margin?), etc., etc. Admittedly the NKJV is also too tied to the AV and should have gone with more literal translations in the margins without losing literary flow, although these tend to be less significant than the defects of the RSV that the ESV carries over.

The ESV has had the advantage of being younger and picking up some of the better translations found in the NASB, NKJV and NIV, but it surprises and disappoints me that there weren't more at this stage in history. It just strikes me that more time could have been spent on it. I just wonder about how much time the "big names" spent on it, given their other commitments. (Some of the loose comments on translation by Packer haven't really given me a lot of confidence.)

In the differences that I have examined (mainly NT), I think there is a 50/50 split between how well each translates the original.

There you have it. It can be boiled down to my current views on the NT text vs. my desire for a common translation.

You can get my e-mail address off Colin, by the way. We also use MSN Messenger, so if you type in my e-mail, so can contact us this way too.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007 9:10:00 pm  

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