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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

ESV guest editorial, by Paul Whiting

Paul Whiting of Shoot the Messenger blog has graciously consented to have the following comments which he sent me by email posted as a guest editorial. You are welcome to comment on this guest editorial, just as you would any other blog post here at the Better Bibles Blog.

I haven't mentioned it yet, but the same criteria posted on some other blogs are desired here of any comments, as well as posts by myself or anyone else, namely, that remarks be civil and gracious. Ad hominem (personal) attacks are not allowed, including questioning the education or spirituality of some other commenter. I, also, have a penchant for empirical (objective data) support for stated opinions. I don't require such details in blog comments, but they are strongly encouraged. I feel that "evidence that supports a verdict," to paraphrase the title of a book by Josh McDowell, furthers dialog and learning better than does simply stating opinions, especially if those opinions contain negative attacks without objective evidence to support them.

Well, here is Paul's guest editorial:
Let me say at the beginning that I like many aspects of the ESV. For years, I've read the essentially literal NRSV, and I often turn to the RSV or ESV where I think the NRSV's well-intentioned and generally successful policy of using inclusive language in relation to human beings produces an awkward translation (as in Hebrews 1). Yet I'm very concerned by the fact that the marketing surrounding the ESV has tapped into some of the worse impulses in the wider Evangelical world. For instance, I've been very concerned with how the promotion of the ESV has been attended by the denigration of translations like the NIV and by the constant repetition of false stereotypes about "dynamic equivalence" translations. In so much publicity, the ESV is often depicted as the translation which conveys the words of God in pristine, undiluted form in English while other translations are represented as essentially compromised here.

Second, I dislike how many proponents of the ESV have presumed to pronounce definitively on the motivations of the translators of other versions. Thus, the translation committee of the TNIV has undertaken their task of revising the NIV with the intention of "muting the masculinity of God's words," of giving into a "feminist" and "egalitarian" agenda. Many Evangelicals seem to love nothing more than a good heresy hunt when it comes to Bible translations, though it belongs to the form of their art never to admit it.

Third, it concerns me how the marketing surrounding the ESV has played to instinctive conservative Evangelical fears regarding spiritual and theological "declension" in the Evangelical movement. Translations like the NIV are seen as the vanguard of this "declension," and the ESV is represented as an intervention arresting this slide.

Fourth, I often hear people speaking of the ESV as if its translation is completely "transparent" to the biblical languages. It's as if the ESV is a window through which one can view the original language texts in a pristine, unmediated way. Although I agree with a lot of what Leland Ryken says in The Word of God in English, I sometimes feel he unintentionally gives his readers this misleading impression of the ESV translation. For example, he criticises the NIV's translation of dikaiosune gar theou in Romans 1:17 ("righteousness from God") as this version's tendency to over-translate, claiming the ESV's "righteousness of God" is what the original actually says. I feel pendantical pointing out the obvious, but dikaiosune gar theou is what Paul says, not the English "righteousness of God." The ESV's "righteousness of God" is an English translation of dikaiosune gar theou that is every bit as interpretive as the NIV.

The promotion of ESV so far has appeared to do little more than engage the in-house issues and concerns of conservative Evangelicals. For this reason, I doubt the ESV will have much appeal beyond this market. To me that's a shame, because the translators of this version really believed they were doing a service to the entire body of Christ by producing it. Maybe this is a vain hope, but one day I would like to see the ESV in an edition which includes the books that Orthodox and Catholics regard as part of the biblical canon. The translators of the KJV included the Western deutero-canonicals. If the creators of the ESV really want their version to be what its name says it is, then I think the ESV's publishers have got to seriously consider translating and including the Catholic and Orthodox canons in subsequent editions.

Regards
Paul Whiting
Categories: ,

6 Comments:

At Wed Jun 22, 06:29:00 PM, Blogger Jeremy Pierce said...

I've seen individuals doing this sort of thing. Wayne Grudem, Leland Ryken, Vern Poythress, and John Piper are some major culprits. Have the official statements of the publishers been like this? I haven't noticed them being like that. It would surprise me, because a large enough portion of the translators for the ESV have worked on translations such as the NIV, NLT, and TNIV.

 
At Wed Jun 22, 10:23:00 PM, Blogger Paul W said...

Jeremy, thanks for responding to my post. You raise a good question: "Have the official statements of the publishers been like this?" I think Crossway has to share much of the blame for the way the ESV has been promoted. Take a look at this page (http://www.esv.org/translation/philosophy) on the ESV website and click on the hyperlink "Some Bible Versions" (http://www.esv.org/about/other.translations). I'm especially troubled by the website's self-serving distortion of the HCSB's translation methodology.

 
At Thu Jun 23, 01:18:00 AM, Anonymous David Dewey said...

Paul's comments are very insightful and, in my view, very observant and wise. However, we must distiguish between what the publishers and translators of the ESV are saying officially and what other ESV supporters are ssaying unofficially. For instance, Paul, what is your source for the quote that 'revising the NIV with the intention of "muting the masculinity of God's words," of giving into a "feminist" and "egalitarian" agenda.'?
David Dewey, author of 'A User's Guide to Bible Translations.'

 
At Thu Jun 23, 05:40:00 AM, Blogger Glennsp said...

"Second, I dislike how many proponents of the ESV have presumed to pronounce definitively on the motivations of the translators of other versions. Thus, the translation committee of the TNIV has undertaken their task of revising the NIV with the intention of "muting the masculinity of God's words," of giving into a "feminist" and "egalitarian" agenda. Many Evangelicals seem to love nothing more than a good heresy hunt when it comes to Bible translations, though it belongs to the form of their art never to admit it."

I am afraid though that the above is exactly what the TNIV is about. If you look here, http://www.cbmw.org/resources/tniv/articles_tniv/2005_0511_article_translation_grudem.php, you will see that they have indeed twisted the word of God. The whole tale of the TNIV is a sad one. That people are prepared to defend it is even sadder. We are talking about the Word of God after all, not some novel.
The ESV is miles ahead of the TNIV precisely because it uses gender inclusive language when it is in the original text and doesn't when it is not.

 
At Thu Jun 23, 06:23:00 AM, Blogger Paul W said...

David, thanks for prompting me with regard to sources.

Your distinction "between what the publishers and translators of the ESV are saying officially and what other ESV supporters are saying unofficially" is very important. I confess I wasn't very clear in making that distinction in my original email to Wayne. Nevertheless, I suggest the "official" claims for the ESV have contributed to some of the more extreme "unofficial" claims made for it.

Where's my evidence? First, the expression "muting the masculinity of God's words is the subtitle to Wayne Grudem's and Vern Polythress' _The Gender-Neutral Bible Controversy_ (Broadman and Holman, 2000). Second, claims about the TNIV translators giving into "feminist" agendas have been made in forums such as World magazine and by Evangelical luminaries such as James Dobson. Go to the profile at my blog and email me there. I'll be happy to provide you with some hyperlinks to substantiate my claims and help you in your enquiries.

 
At Thu Jun 23, 07:22:00 AM, Blogger Paul W said...

Glenn, to claim that the TNIV is inaccurate in many of its translations and to say that its translators have "twisted the word of God" are two different claims. The contention between Grudem and Poythress and the translators of the TNIV is over whether the later can accurately translate the originals into contemporary English with their inclusive language policy. Grudem and Poythress give a resounding "NO" to this question. Equally capable Evangelical scholars (of the stature of D. A. Carson, Gordon Fee, Douglas Stuart and Craig Blomberg) disagree. Each side in this debate loves the Word of God and each wants to translate it as accurately as possible into literate, contemporary English.

 

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