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Friday, June 10, 2005

Meet a translator ... Leland Ryken (ESV)

I have appreciated getting to know Dr. Leland Ryken, a member of the ESV translation team, by email. Dr. Ryken has been a professor of English at Wheaton College in Illinois since 1968. When I saw Dr. Ryken's C.V. I was fascinated by the fact that he did his Ph.D. in English at the University of Oregon, the same school where I did my last graduate work, although mine was in the Linguistics Department. (I did, however, teach a course called The Structure of English, to undergraduates, which was cross-listed with the English Department.) We have a little grandson who lives now (with his parents) in Wheaton so if we are able to visit little Sam(uel) there, I would like to accept Dr. Ryken's invitation to visit him. Well, let's give a warm welcome to Dr. Ryken, who likes to go by the name Lee. (I assume he accepts being called Dr. Ryken from his students and others, as a form of honor, something which I was taught from childhood.)

Lee, when did the Bible first start becoming important to you personally?

The Bible became important to me personally at an early age when I grew up
in a Christian home where the Bible was read AFTER EVERY MEAL and where a
Christian school education further impressed upon me the centrality of the
Bible to life.

What has been your role in the production of the ESV?

When I was first asked to join the ESV translation committee, I hesitated to
accept because I did not believe that I brought enough to the table to sit
with the experts. I was asked to join because half of my career has been
devoted the Bible as literature, and secondarily because I am a professor of
English. So I was dubbed "literary stylist," and this has, indeed, been
part of my role on the committee. But it turned out that the entire
committee has excellent grammatical and stylistic intuitions. I believe
that my main contribution has been as an informed generalist--one who often
asked questions that experts in the original languages do not ask.

How would you like people to pray for the ministry of the ESV?

The prayer that I covet for the ESV is what any evangelical translator
wants--that people will converted to Christ and lead godly lives. Beyond
that, and based on my commitment to an essentially literal translation
philosophy, my prayer is that readers of the English Bible will use
translations that accurately give them the actual words of the original
Scripture and not mere approximations to those words.

Thank you, Lee.

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At Fri Jun 10, 07:38:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What does the NIV and TNIV have to do with any of this? You ask him about the NIV and he talks about the ESV. What's going on here?

At Fri Jun 10, 08:29:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Dear anonymous, thank you very much for your comment. It was simply a mistake on my part. I had to copy the interview frame from another file on my computer. The last person interviewed was on the NIV and TNIV teams, so that was the nearest frame I could find. I forgot to change the Bible version in the interview questions frame. The lesson, of course, is proofread, proofread, proofread, revise, revise, then proofread some more, and then have someone else proofread. And one final step needs to be ... yes, you're right, proofread. I have sent an email apology to Dr. Ryken and if anyone reading this blog needs an apology, here it is, also. Fortunately, the mistake wasn't up very long before you caught it and I corrected it.

Let's see, what was that lesson again. Oh, yes, proofread, and then proofread again. It works for Bible versions, and it surely works for blog posts.

sometimes it's painful to be human,

At Mon Jun 13, 07:18:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Your poll questions seems to be pretty loaded and is contingent upon how you define "good, quality, proper English". What's your agenda?

At Mon Jun 13, 09:48:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

anonymous said: "Your poll questions seems to be pretty loaded and is contingent upon how you define "good, quality, proper English". What's your agenda?"

Dear anonymous, you ask important questions. First, if you perceived my poll questions to be loaded, that is important and I need to address the issue. I would like to address this and your second comment as well as your question in a blog post, since the points you raise are important and it is easier for more blog visitors to read answers in a blog post.

Would you do me a favor, please, to help me before I blog on your comment? Would you please give me some specific examples where you believe my poll questions are loaded. Please give the wording of the poll questions and explain how you feel they are loaded. Thanks.

You asked about my agenda. It is the same passion that Luther had when he translated to German and that Tyndale had for English. My agenda is stated in the header to this blog. It is the desire to help improve the quality of English Bible versions, in all areas, most of all, accuracy, but also removing ungrammatical wordings, and any other wordings which do not reflect the wordings of the biblical language source texts to current English readers as well as they could. Thank you for asking.


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