Better Bibles Blog has moved. Read our last post, below, and then
click here if you are not redirected to our new location within 60 seconds.
Please Bookmark our new location and update blogrolls.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

ESV poll results: Is. 65:18 wording is not a gladness

The fifth sentence tested in our poll of ESV translation wordings is:
Jerusalem's people are a gladness.
This sentence is excerpted and slightly revised from Is. 65:18 which is worded, in full, as:
But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness.
Only 82 of 350 respondents (23.4%) indicated that they considered the test sentence to be proper English.

The test sentence is odd English, perhaps even ungrammatical. In 20th or 21st century English one would never, as far as I know, refer to anything being a "gladness," let alone a group of people being a "gladness." Instead, a group of people can be a "delight" or a "joy." They can "bring us joy." "Delight" and "joy" collocate properly with a reference to people in the English lexicon. "Gladness" does not do so for a majority of English speakers, at least not a majority of the English speakers who visit this blog and chose to take the ESV wording poll.

The RSV, of which the ESV is a revision, has better quality English in its parallel sentence of Is. 65:18 (see other version wordings below). The amount of poor English which I and others have found in the ESV is especially baffling given the following statement on the ESV website:
more than sixty of the world’s leading Bible scholars pored over every word and phrase to achieve the unique accuracy, excellence, and beauty of the ESV Bible
Better quality English wordings, excerpted and revised to parallel the test sentence, are:
Jerusalem's people are a joy. (KJV; essentially literal)
Jerusalem's people are a joy. (ASV; literal; source text for RSV)
Jerusalem's people are a joy. (RSV; essentially literal, source text for ESV)
Jerusalem's people are a source of happiness. (NET Bible; essentially literal)
Jerusalem's people are a delight. (HCSB; essentially literal)
Jerusalem's people are a delight (NRSV; essentially literal)
Jerusalem's people are a joy. (NIV, TNIV; moderately literal)
Jerusalem's people are a source of joy. (NLT; dynamic equivalent)
The NASB is the only other English version that uses the word "gladness" in Is. 65:18 and its syntactic and lexical usage in the NASB is different from that of the ESV:
For behold, I create Jerusalem for rejoicing
And her people for gladness.
I look forward to a revised ESV with better quality English. And I will be glad to note improved wordings in the ESV. I am always glad when revision leads to better Bibles.

Categories: ,

3 Comments:

At Thu Nov 10, 04:07:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Wayne, you link to "leading Bible scholars" doesn't work. This is not surprising, because I am sure that http://www.blogger.com/translation/team is not correct. But it is sad, because I wanted to see this list, and to see if any of these people could actually be expected to ensure the naturalness and beauty of the translation - although doubtless they are well qualified to ensure its accuracy.

The NASB reading is much more natural than the ESV one, by avoiding the inappropriate indefinite article before "gladness". But I am not sure what it means.

But then I do not want to imply that "a gladness" is always unnatural. A quick Google search gave me some examples which do sound natural: "Van Ness felt a gladness and wonder as he drove..."; "What a gladness to think that whatever humanity did..." (this from DH Lawrence); "It is a gladness that comes out of an assurance that God is in control..." (not quite sure about this one); "The predominant mood of these autumnal celebrations is a gladness for the fruits of the earth...". But there is something subtle which makes these acceptable but the ESV verse not. Maybe it is simply that "a joy" and "a delight" can refer to some concrete source of joy etc, but "a gladness" can only be an abstract feeling.

 
At Thu Nov 10, 05:51:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Wayne, you link to "leading Bible scholars" doesn't work. This is not surprising, because I am sure that http://www.blogger.com/translation/team is not correct. But it is sad, because I wanted to see this list, and to see if any of these people could actually be expected to ensure the naturalness and beauty of the translation - although doubtless they are well qualified to ensure its accuracy.

Thanks for catching that dead link, Peter. I simply copied the passage from the ESV website without doing anything about the link. So we learn from this that Blogger doesn't properly copy links from elsewhere in normal webpage view mode. We have to copy the underlying html instead.

I have repaired the link and added another.

 
At Thu Nov 10, 07:21:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Thanks for the change. I am guessing that the link you copied was simply to something like /translation/team, which correctly becomes http://www.esv.org/translation/team when you are already at www.esv.org, but not when you are at www.blogger.com. But it is probably safe to visit the web page you want to link to and copy its full URL from the browser URL display - which is what I usually do.

Following the corrected link, I found as I suspected that the ESV translation team is not well qualified in English language. For example, the Translation Review Scholars were chosen for "their special expertise in the original languages and specific books of the Bible", rather than for their command of the English language. The same seems true of most of the Translation Oversight Committee, with the exception of Dr Leland Ryken, a professor of English, and perhaps Dr Lane Dennis, a publisher. I know Dr Ryken has tried to defend the style of the ESV, but I suspect that his has also found his hands tied by the overwhelming weight of biblical scholars who lack his stylistic sensitivity.

 

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home