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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

ESV vs. TNIV

If we could decide the merits of the ESV vs. the TNIV solely on the quality of their website technologies and blog currency, the ESV would win hands down. The ESV Internet team is superb. (I wish the English in the ESV were the same; much of it is rather strange.)

Yesterday, however, the TNIV blog posted notice of a new Flash presentation of the TNIV on the Zondervan website. Turn your speakers up and click on the titled boxes on the flash screen.

If you are more concerned about translation quality than technological superiority, my own quantified studies demonstrate that the TNIV is superior to the ESV. And as an editor and longtime student of English, I can also easily affirm that the literary quality of English in the TNIV surpasses that of the ESV.

Categories: ,

12 Comments:

At Tue Oct 25, 09:34:00 AM, Blogger exegete77 said...

I am torn, Wayne. Liturgically the ESV is much better than TNIV. I do think that what I have read in the NT, the TNIV is better than the NIV - but then I have never been a fan of the NIV. Recently I have begun using ESV for public worship, memory work, and teaching Bible study. On the other hand, ESV has been exasperating because of the poorly constructed English sentences (Isaiah 22:17, Isaiah 63:10, Jeremiah 10:25, Jeremiah 12:6, Jeremiah 12:11, Jeremiah 31:8 - which I have written about on the Translation list), and one bad translation (John 20:23). My hope is that the ESV revision will correct all of these.

Here is another one: Isaiah 10:7, especially the last line.

But he does not so intend,
and his heart does not so think;
but it is in his heart to destroy,
and to cut off nations not a few;


Even the more wooden NAS 95 does better:

Yet it does not so intend,
Nor does it plan so in its heart,
But rather it is its purpose to destroy
And to cut off many nations.


So, what to do? For study I use the Hebrew/Greek texts, but for English I use NAS95/NKJV/ESV for the FE translations, and GW/NLT2.0 for MB translations (I have about ~30 other English translations). That mix works well for me. I look forward to ESV 2.0.

 
At Tue Oct 25, 11:27:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Rich, I have never been a fan of the NIV either, but it is much better than a number of other English versions.

Thanks for your list of verse wordings that you find awkward in the ESV.

You said, "Liturgically the ESV is much better than TNIV." How do you determine what is liturgically better? Does it have to do with one's personal preference for an older form of English that sounds more dignified or sacred? Or are there some objective criteria by which we can measure liturgical quality?

Ideally, we want a Bible that contains good quality English wordings (not like the many non-English wordings in the ESV), is highly accurate, and sounds good for public reading, including liturgical reading. The NRSV comes close, I think. Its translators removed much of the odd English in the RSV, whereas the ESV translators did almost nothing to improve the English of the RSV. It still has more translationese than I would like, but it is better than both the RSV and ESV in that regard. Would the NRSV work for you for liturgical reading?

 
At Tue Oct 25, 11:29:00 AM, Blogger Aaron Shafovaloff said...

You guys might be interested in the following resource:

http://www.theopedia.com

 
At Tue Oct 25, 01:25:00 PM, Blogger son of abraham said...

Wayne wrote:

"my own quantified studies demonstrate that the TNIV is superior to the ESV."

Why am I not surprised?

 
At Tue Oct 25, 02:23:00 PM, Blogger exegete77 said...

Wayne asked:
"Liturgically the ESV is much better than TNIV." How do you determine what is liturgically better? Does it have to do with one's personal preference for an older form of English that sounds more dignified or sacred? Or are there some objective criteria by which we can measure liturgical quality?

I think this might relate to whether someone comes from a liturgical background. That is, the general Protestant Christian congregation (especially in western cultures) today is essentially non-liturgical. By that I mean that what was the liturgical form of worship for the past 1,500 years has not been retained among these congregations (this is not meant as a judgmental statement, but an observation). The historic liturgical form included spoken and sung responses (Kyrie, Alleluia, Gloria Patri, Te Deum, Nunc Dimittis, Agnus Dei, etc.).

Thus, part of the liturgical use of a translation relates to how the translation expresses and relates to these traditional musical/lyrical/rhythmic elements. This is both a translational and a musical process/evaluation. It is interesting that when the LCMS (Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod) had worked with the LCA and ALC on a new hymnal, eventually LBW) in the 1960's and 1970's, Psalm texts were translated specifically for the hymnal. When the LCMS pulled out of the project due to theological problems with the project itself, the LCMS wanted to retain the Psalms texts in its own hymnal (LW). The other church bodies refused, and the LCMS was under the deadline to print. Eventually the LCMS used the NIV for the Psalms text -- because it was royalty-free! The selection had nothing to do with whether it was a good translation, but that it was "cheap". I think since then many in the LCMS have regretted that translation choice.

But this brings up another point - whose text is it? and what purpose does it serve? Dr. Theodore Letis has written about this in the book The Ecclesiastical Text. That is, the Church (not referring to a denomination) has traditionally been the retainer of the text, translator of the text, and especially the user of the text. In the last 100 years there has been a major shift from the Church to the Academic and parachurch organizations (publishers) who have taken over the role of translation and Bible "selling". Sadly many in the parachurch groups do not have the liturgical heritage to evaulate whether a translation is good for liturgical purposes.

And finally, the liturgical text must have the oral/rhythmic quality that can only be heard and not just read on the page. This is a critical factor for any translation (and one which GW does well), but especially for a liturgical translation (which GW doesn't do as well).

Wayne wrote: Ideally, we want a Bible that contains good quality English wordings (not like the many non-English wordings in the ESV), is highly accurate, and sounds good for public reading, including liturgical reading.

I suspect you mean by "non-English wordings" such things as: righteousness, justification, grace, reconciliation, etc. Here is where I would disagree, and partly based on the use of the text. Since I use the text within the context of the faith community, I believe that it is important to grow the believer into the knowledge of the faith. This is the point at which liturgy, translation, and catechesis come together. They become expressions of the faith and teachers of the faith. Thus, an 80 year old great-grandmother and an 8 year old great-granddaughter can recite texts based on a common liturgical heritage (I have examples of the Lord's Prayer), where small accomodations for language changes still allow the rhythm of singing/chanting/reading the same text.

I remember the struggle I had with God's Word translation as it field-tested some translations. Obviously grace, righteousness, justification were at the top of the list. They were correct in pointing out that many people in the test congregations misunderstood the words (our congregation did quite well in understanding the meaning as related in the Biblical texts ;) ). The solution for the GW translation team was to use words that may or may not have been better: "God's approval" instead of righteousness. However, that choice too may be misleading. And yet GW retained "righteousness" 130 times, and in several key OT passages (i.e., Psalm 4:1, 5; 9:8; 50:6; 97:2; Isaiah 1:27; 5:7; 9:7; 51:7, 8; 54:14; 56:1; 58:14) and then 1 Corinthians 1:30. My solution would be to continue to teach people so that they grow in the understanding of what is behind the translation whether TSeDiQ or DIKAISOUNH. And by retaining righteousness there is a historic link - theologically, yes, but also liturgically.

Wayne wrote: The NRSV comes close, I think. Its translators removed much of the odd English in the RSV, whereas the ESV translators did almost nothing to improve the English of the RSV. It still has more translationese than I would like, but it is better than both the RSV and ESV in that regard. Would the NRSV work for you for liturgical reading?

NRSV is a wonderfully aggravating translation. There many places in which it is excellent, and it would be a good liturigical translation, following in the pattern of the KJV/RSV tradition of translation excellence. On the other hand, the agenda stated at the beginning of the translation to adjust texts to avoid patriarchical language (my paraphrase) leads to some disquieting translation choices, namely the changing of singular to plural, which misses the application to individuals rather than community/corporate people of God, and further waters down the true community/corporate application verses. Also, as Fred Danker has pointed out, Multipurpose Tools for Bible Study, the NRSV sometimes will change the textual basis for its translation, but give the reader no clue that such has taken place.

It is interesting that the NRSV team consciously incorporated some of Wm. Beck's translations because they were excellent translational choices.

I think that a mix of the NRSV and ESV would yield a reasonably accurate English translation as well as a good liturgical text.

 
At Tue Oct 25, 02:52:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

son of abraham responded:

Wayne wrote:

"my own quantified studies demonstrate that the TNIV is superior to the ESV."

Why am I not surprised?


It is not clear which proposition you are not surprised about:

a. that data demonstrates the TNIV to be superior to the ESV, or
b. that such a claim would come from my studies

If you intended (a), I would invite you to examine the evidence. You are most welcome to report back here on any specifics in the charts with which you agree or disagree.

If you intended (b), I would invite you to interact empirically with the data and report back here any of the data which you believe to be in error.

It is much easier to deal with specifics than general claims. I always invited others to show any place in my studies where I made any errors. But there needs to be counter-evidence, not simply a general claim about the studies as a whole. Such general claims are neither verifiable nor falsifiable, which is the essense of the search for truth among empirical data.

 
At Tue Oct 25, 02:56:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Rich wrote:

I suspect you mean by "non-English wordings" such things as: righteousness, justification, grace, reconciliation, etc.

I'm sorry I wasn't clearer on this, Rich. No, I was not referring to any technical terms such as these. These words are real English words. I was referring to non-English syntax and non-English lexical collocations. You can see many examples of these in my files on translation problems in the ESV, accessible from the Internet link I gave within today's post. I'll give it here again:

http://www.geocities.com/bible_translation/esvlinks.htm#problems

 
At Tue Oct 25, 03:10:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Rich concluded:

I think that a mix of the NRSV and ESV would yield a reasonably accurate English translation as well as a good liturgical text.

I agree, Rich, as long as the ESV is revised sufficiently by English scholars to bring it into conformity with the rules of English syntax and lexicon.

As for the social agenda stated in the NRSV, I find use of any social agenda "disquieting", to use your appropriate term.

The NRSV has one social agenda. The ESV translators have another. I do not believe that any translation should promote any social agenda other than what is clearly stated in the propositions of Scripture.

I think we should simply translate into currently good quality literary language and not try to make God's Word "better" than it already is, in any area. It is strong enough to stand on its own. It has done so for millenia and will continue to do so. I find it ironic that the very people who decry what they perceive as social agendas in some English versions themselves follow a social agenda in their own translation, and even write books about it, supporting their beliefs that their ideology and doctrine is the "correct" one to be found in the Bible. Church history is replete with the sad wreckage of individuals and groups who claimed to have a special "in" on biblical truth.

At a minimum, what those who follow any social or ideological agenda in their Bible translation need to do is be upfront about it and say that they understand that not all serious students of the Bible will agree with their particular translation choices based on their ideology and doctrine. It is tragic when adherence to one ideology or another, or one kind of Bible translation approach or another, or one Bible version or another (e.g. KJVOnlyism) becomes a litmus test for some of genuine spirituality or commitment to God's truth.

 
At Tue Oct 25, 03:26:00 PM, Blogger exegete77 said...

I agree, Wayne, for the most part. One area in which the translation choice involves doctrine is significant: whether it is "Christian" vs. "non-Christian" (for the NT). Then I would reconsider whether to accept a "non-Christian agenda" crafted translation. And this goes back to whose text is it (beyond the fact that it is God-breathed)? It is the Christian Church's text Can we learn from the non-Christian translator? Absolutely, but that would not be used as a basis for formulating the translation.

No one is doctrine-independent, not even you or I! LOL

Thanks for the chance to write a little (I have been home sick today, so this is all I can manage).

 
At Wed Oct 26, 02:57:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Wayne, you wrote: The NRSV has one social agenda. The ESV translators have another.

Do you have any evidence for these claims? I accept that the translation committees have different theological perspectives, but that is a different matter.

The NRSV preface states clearly that "masculine-oriented language" has been largely eliminated in order to provide faithful and acceptable renderings rather than ones which "often restricted or obscured the meaning of the original text"; in other words, they are following language change rather than promoting it. So this is not an agenda. In any case, there is little correlation between gender-related language and social conditions, as should be clear when it is remembered that Persian is a gender-neutral language; so even if the team did have a linguistic agenda, that would not imply a social agenda.

I don't have the ESV preface to hand for comparison; does it clearly state a social agenda? I know that some supporters of ESV have a clear and innovative theological position of "male representation", but a theological agenda is not a social one. And some who have a "complementarian" social agenda also support the ESV and reject alternatives like NRSV and TNIV, because they misunderstand the latter as going against their agenda. But is it in fact fair to accuse the ESV translators themselves of having this kind of social agenda?

 
At Wed Oct 26, 03:40:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

I said:

The NRSV has one social agenda. The ESV translators have another.

Peter responded:

Do you have any evidence for these claims? I accept that the translation committees have different theological perspectives, but that is a different matter.

Fair enough, Peter. I assumed "social agenda" was the right term to cover for the kinds of ideology reflected differently between the ESV and TNIV. The ESV and its promoters make it clear that they retain a masculine orientation in the ESV. They believe, for instance, that using English "he" as the singular generic pronoun is the proper linguistic way to support their belief in male representation and to oppose what they regard as the influence of "feminism" in some other English Bible versions (I don't agree with them about such influence, as I think you know). The ESV translators and supporters, of course, believe that they are simply translating the Bible accurately.

And that is exactly what the TNIV translators believe. I especially realize after your comment that it was inappropriate of me to speak of a "social agenda" which the TNIV translators have. They have specifically said they do not have a social agenda. And their translation team includes complementarians who would support the belief of the ESV translators that men and women must, by divine decree, have some different roles in the church and home.

Perhaps what I should have said is that the ESV is perceived by some (many?) to promote one kind of agenda, while the TNIV is perceived by some (many?) to support a different agenday. Clearly, they have translated differently in some passages, such as in the Beatitudes (Matt. 5.9) where to huioi are translated as "sons of God" in the ESV but generic "children of God" in the TNIV. I happen to believe that the TNIV translation here is more accurate than that of the ESV, which sounds to me to limit reference to males only (and if that is the case, men like Wayne Grudem would say that women are included "by application").

If I still am writing about these differences between the ESV and TNIV in a murky or inaccurate way, why don't you create a post to state it clearer. I would like that.

Nice to have you back from your fieldwork.

 
At Wed Oct 26, 04:21:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Thank you, Wayne. But does the ESV translation team as a whole really have a "belief in male representation"? This theological novelty is associated with Grudem and Poythress, but is it actually taught by the ESV team? Of course "the belief of the ESV translators that men and women must, by divine decree, have some different roles in the church and home" is a separate matter, and if this is indeed being promoted by the ESV translators (which has not been demonstrated) that could justifiably be called a social agenda.

The TNIV team does not have an opposite social agenda (and you never suggested that it did), and I don't think the NRSV team does. If you are looking for that feminist or egalitarian social agenda, you might need to look at the specifically feminist Bibles which have been published, and which you probably know better than me.

I will consider posting something more comprehensive about this, time permitting.

 

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