Anthropos and the ESV
As the next step, I decided to look at how the English Standard Version translates 'anthropos' and few more of those words which Gerald has been calling 'masculine leaning'.
The words I have chosen are 'anthropos' 'uios' 'adelphos' and 'aner'. I have taken three texts 1 Timothy 2 and Acts 7 and 9. After looking at how the words were translated in these chapters I referred to the translation philosphy of the ESV to see if their translation practice was consistent with their stated philosophy.
My assessment of this translation would not be based on which English word or words the ESV used to translate 'anthropos' and the other Greek words, or even whether the ESV was a literal translation based on the formal equivalence model. Rather I wanted to see if the ESV, as a translation, was consistent with its own guidelines. That seemed fair.
In 1 Timothy 2, the words 'anthropos' and 'aner' are translated as follows.
verse 1 - anthropos (plural) - all people
verse 4 - anthropos (plural) - all people
verse 5 - anthropos (singular) - man
verse 5 - anthropos (plural) - men
verse 8 - aner (plural) - men
In Acts 7 the words 'uios' and 'adelphos' are translated as follows.
verse 23 uios (plural) - children
verse 23 adelphos (plural) brothers (note that the referent here is the same as for the previous word)
verse 29 uios (plural) - sons
verse 56 uios (singular) - son
In Acts 9
verse 15 uios (plural) children
verse 20 uios (singular) son
In each of these cases the translators of the ESV made a decision about how to interpret and represent a Greek word in English. Many of these translations I agree with, a few I don't, but that is not relevant.
I understood that the ESV was supposed to be a 'literal' or word for word translation, on the formal equivalence principle. Unfortunately the very phrase 'formal equivalence' calls to my mind this verse.
1 Tim. 3:5 (KJV) Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
However, I am not so much interested, at the moment, in whether formal equivalence is a valid translation principle, as in whether the ESV follows its own expressed philosphy. This is a quote from the translation philosphy found on the ESV website.
Therefore, to the extent that plain English permits and the meaning in each case allows, we have sought to use the same English word for important recurring words in the original...
One can only conclude that the ESV, in translating the words selected above within the chapters cited here, have not followed their own guidelines. Further research indicates that they have not necessarily remained consistent with the King James Version or the Revised Standard Version in translating these words.
In examining the ESV article on the so-called 'inaccuracies' of the TNIV I find this definition of an inaccuracy. man (anthropos, singular) changed to human being/human/mere mortal when referring to a specific historical man (6) Should the translator also change the word 'carpenter' or 'lawyer' to 'man' when referring to a specific historical man?
The very real problem here is that if people believe that the ESV site is truthful, they will, in fact, asume that the TNIV is removing the word 'man' and 'son' from the translation, when this is not the case. The ESV itself translates 'anthropoi' as 'people' rather than 'men', and 'huioi' as 'children' rather than 'sons', when it deems appropriate. And that is exactly what the TNIV does.
If congregations are looking for a translation for a pulpit reading over this Christmas which maintains the use of traditional language, they are, in my view, better off reading from the KJV or NKJV. Thanks to Ben Witherington for saying this here.
Categories: Bible translation, ESV, TNIV, translation accuracy, gender accuracy, anthropos, adelphos, aner