Open my eyes that I might see
Here is one of many wordings which, I suggest, will not be understood correctly by children (and perhaps many adults, as well) reading the ESV text, without additional teaching:
John 9:17: So they said again to the blind man, "What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?" He said, "He is a prophet."This wording occurs in the first page view of the children's Bible on the ESV Bible blog.
What is the problem with the ESV wording? Can you spot it?
It is use of the words "open eyes" when the intended meaning is "heal eyes." We (myself included) who have grown up within the KJV tradition find it difficult to think anything other than that others will get the proper meaning from "open eyes." But the standard English meaning of "open eyes" is that someone's eyes (or eyelids) are physically opened, not that there is healing from blindness. The phrase "open eyes" reflects the Greek words which apparently did have the extended meaning that included healing of eyes. Although the context in which "open eyes" is used might enable some readers to recognize that these words are being used figuratively, rather than literally, not everyone will get the right meaning from the context.
I realize that my statements here will be jarring to some. It is difficult to think anything other than that this traditional English Bible way of referring to the healing of the blind man's eyes is correct. But the issue at hand is important: It is the critical issue of accuracy, as it is communicated through a Bible translation.
To address the issue, we must do what needs to be done for any English Bible version to find out if the meanings we intend by our translation wordings are accurately communicated to users of the translation. In this case, simple field testing among a wide range of individuals who the ESV team hopes will use its translation, including the children using the children's Bible, can be done. The field test question can be as simple as "What does it sound like is happening if we say that a person's eyes were opened?" If all (or, at least, a huge majority of) children (or adults) answer, "It sounds like the person is getting their eyesight," then we know that the ESV (and all other Bible versions which use the same expression) have accurately communicated the biblical meaning here. If the test subjects say, "It sounds like the person's eyes were opened, maybe his eyelids had been shut before," then the translation is not accurate for those test subjects, and needs to be revised until it is accurate--unless we are willing to have translations which are not in the vernacular, that is, the common mother tongue of the people for whom we are translating, requiring additional teaching to correct the misunderstood meanings of the translated words.
Categories: ESV, Bible translation