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Friday, July 08, 2005

ESV: Literary excellence examples

Thank you to each one who has voted so far in the ESV poll (the first poll in the right margin of this blog). I see from the responses that several people have indicated that they feel that the ESV has literary excellence in some passages but not in others. It would be interesting and helpful to have specific examples from the ESV to go along with poll responses. So, however you vote in the poll, if you could, please take the time to include a comment under this post where you include a verse or passage from the ESV which to you has literary excellence, or, on the other hand, shows lack of literary excellence. If you are short on time, it will be enough just to list Bible references and label them as having or not having literary excellence. If you have more time, it would be the most helpful to quote the ESV wording and explain what about it leads you to evaluate it has having or not having literary excellence. There are NO right or wrong answers here. We are simply sharing how the ESV impacts us personally in terms of literary quality. Such sharing can also help us get a better idea of how different ESV users understand literary excellence.

I am sure that your responses here will be valuable to the ESV team. They probably will not have received much specific input yet on regarding literary excellence in their translation. It would be good to get comments from ESV enthusiasts as well as those not so enthusiastic about the ESV.

I, personally, have been trying to approach the ESV as objectively as I can. I have come across some passages which I think have literary excellence. I will cite some of them in the comments to this post. Please follow suit.

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At Fri Jul 08, 07:19:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

For me, one of the most glorious (I mean that term!) passages in all of the Bible is Isaiah 6, Isaiah's vision of the Lord. I think that the ESV does a good job, on the whole, retaining the literary excellence and glorious language of the Tyndale-KJV tradition. As I read the chapter I feel that I am back reading it with the wonderful words it had in the KJV which have always struck me with the glorious intensity of how Isaiah describes the Lord, his own response to seeing the Lord, and what the Lord tells him to do. I am glad that the ESV uses the word "two" in the poetically repetitive phrases of verse 2, rather than the obsolete word "twain."

For me the text "burps" a bit in verse 4 with the word "thresholds." I don't know what "foundations of the thresholds" would be, so I find this unfamiliar phrasing to be distracting.

I think the word "lost" in verse 5 could probably be expressed with a different English wording which would more accurately and clearly express the hopelessness that Isaiah feels at that point.

Overall, again, I find this passage to have literary excellence. There are just a few spots where the text "stutters" a bit for me when I encounter a wording which I do not understand or which seems to me not as intense as I think Isaiah was expressing his feelings.

At Fri Jul 08, 01:35:00 PM, Blogger Paul W said...


The ESV often uses the expression "the like" (1Ki 10:20; 2Ch 1:12; 2Ch 9:11; Jer 18:13; Eze 5:9; Eze 16:16). These verses are examples of where I feel the ESV lacks literary excellence. Jer 18:13 also has another example of literary inelegance in the ESV. It says, "Who has heard the like of this?" After "heard," there needs to be the preposition "of." So I suggest a better translation would be "Who has heard of anything like this?"

I have noticed another problem with the expression "the like." It is ambiguous. Does it refer to a singular or plural object? With regard to Jer 18:13, I notice that even literal translations significantly differ here.

At Fri Jul 08, 07:28:00 PM, Anonymous Rich said...

There are a few passages that lack literary excellence (sometimes caught when read orally). Here are three examples

Isaiah 63:10 "therefore he turned to be their enemy, and himself fought against them"

Jeremiah 12:6 "... they are in full cry after you"

Jeremiah 31:8 "Behold, I will bring them from the north country and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, the pregnant woman and her who is in labor, together..."


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