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Tuesday, June 28, 2005

ESV: Are commentaries less necessary with the ESV?

Another interview answer from Dr. Wayne Grudem of the ESV translation team. Click on the title to this post to read it.

I posted two comments to Dr. Grudem's answer on Adrian Warnock's blog. Here's my first comment:
I'm glad the ESV team consulted exegetical experts on individual books of the Bible. This surely increased the exegetical accuracy of the ESV. Now if they would only have consulted [a team of] English scholars so that the accurate meaning would be conveyed in contemporary, good quality, literary English we would have an ideal Bible. Instead, the ESV team chose to use many obscure wordings and some obsolete syntax. Each of these linguistic forms which is not current standard English is an additional barrier to those users of the ESV who are not already familiar with "seminary English."
And here is my second:
What is the difference between getting what Dr. Grudem calls arriving at "the best reading of a verse" through the translation process followed by the ESV team--which I happen to think is the proper procedure--using commentaries and exegetical experts on individual books of the Bible, and what is criticized by many as using "interpretation" in the translation process? Isn't getting "the best reading of a verse" interpretation? I think it is, and I think it is an appropriate process to try to do the most accurate Bible translation. I applaud the ESV process, but wonder about the criticisms directed at what seems to me the same kind of process the ESV team used. What am I missing as people define good interpretation, as followed by the ESV team, and interpretation which people say should not be used in translation, but, rather that one should simply translate word-by-one what the Bible "says" and not what it "means"?
You are most welcome to respond here (or on Adrian's blog) to anything I said in my comments.

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At Wed Jun 29, 07:49:00 AM, Anonymous Pat L said...

You are right on to point out the fact that all translations involve exegesis and interpretation. Of course, it is a matter of degree. Some translations go further than others to disambiguate the original text.

I think it is unfortunate, however, that those who want to promote the use of "essentially literal" translations to the total exclusion of dynamic equivalence translations often resort to rhetoric that suggests the translation they happen to like is devoid of such interpretation. In my experience, some of these people actually believe this to be the case; others, when pressed, will admit that translation, by necessity, involves innumerable interpretive decisions. Nevertheless, in most of their trumpeting about Bible translation, they try to distract people from that fact. Different ones of them have different motives for doing so, I'm sure. A few of those motives might be commendable in a way--e.g., not wanting to confuse people with nuanced descriptions of reality, not wanting people to think they have to know Hebrew and Greek in order to know what God has said--but I suspect plenty of those motives are not all that commendable--especially when the person in question is trying to undermine someone else's confidence in a dynamic equivalence translation on the grounds that dynamic equivalence involves interpretation rather than "pure translation" (good grief!)

So I hope your post circulates widely on the Web. At the very least, it should prompt a little more honesty from those who are actively involved in demonizing dynamic equivalence translations because the translators "interpreted" the text.

I hope that soon we'll see more evangelicals (especially those who favor the use of an "essentially literal" translation for preaching, teaching, and memorization) begin to speak positively about how to make positive use of the variety of English translations we have available (e.g., in personal Bible study, reading through large portions of the Bible at a time, etc.) Maybe that chorus could drown out the demonizers of dynamic equivalence, who, I believe, are harming the church.


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