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Monday, February 20, 2006

Ben Witherington: The Problem with the ESV

Ben Witherington has blogged again about the ESV. Today's post is titled The Problem with the ESV.

HT: Shane Raynor

UPDATE (Feb. 21): Today the ESV Bible blog responded to Ben Witherington, denying his "second hand tale" of how the ESV came to be. I suspect that we have not heard the end of this one, since I seem to recall hearing Wayne Grudem publicly give one or more accounts of the origin of the ESV which differ from what is now posted on the ESV blog. I recall hearing Dr. Grudem state that the ESV was created in response to the decision of the CBT for the NIV to continue revising the NIV including updating its masculinist language to be more gender-accurate, many of the updates which are now the same as gender-accurate wordings in the ESV. My impression from the quality of the revisions of the RSV is that the production of the ESV was something of a rush job. Perhaps those on the ESV team who were most vocal against the TNIV, such as Dr. Grudem and Dr. Vern Poythress, were pushing hard to publish the ESV before the complete TNIV Bible was published.

I would like to see an independent statement from Dr. Grudem giving his account of how the ESV came to be to see how that compares with the account just given on the ESV Bible Blog.

On Dec. 19, 2005, Jeremy Pierce posted on this same topic.

Update (Feb. 22): Today blogger Denny Burk takes Ben Witherington to task over his post. Unfortunately, Burk's post is subjective, stating his own opinions, and does not present empirical data, which are always essential for supporting or refuting claims. For instance, Burk claims:
Witherington is in error when he says that translating anthrōpoi as “men” misrepresents the meaning of the word. In English usage, as in Greek, everyone knows that the plural form “men” can refer to mankind or people in general without respect to gender. A quick perusal of any English dictionary will confirm that this is in fact a long standing English idiom.
Burk makes the unsubstantiated claim, that "everyone knows ..." My own observations as a linguist supported by empirical field testing, casts doubt upon Burk's claim. Everyone today does not know that the English word "men" "can refer to mankind or people in general." The appeal to the dictionary only supports the claim that Burk makes, namely, that the generic usage for "men" is "long standing." It does not support the claim that the longstanding usage is continued among "everyone" of today's speakers of English. The empirical facts can only be determined by scientific field testing, not from personal statements believed to be true of "everyone."



At Mon Feb 20, 09:15:00 PM, Blogger son of abraham said...

Looks like "Bible rage" to me.

At Tue Feb 21, 03:53:00 AM, Blogger KAT said...

Looks like "Bible rage" to me.

While he's at it, I'd just like to offer a "LOL" for that invirile segment of individuals who imagine that chauvinism is next to godliness.

Why do they even bother translating the Bible anyways? They could probably sum up their religion in as few words as :

Love thy neighbor -- But tell the women to shut their traps (and while they're at it, tell them to cook us dinner too.)

So there you go...They could call it the Boy's Club Translation (or something...).

Here's another idea: The preachers could all wear "wife beaters" as the official dress for clergy ("wife beater" is colliquial term for those cheap white tanktops/muscleshirts, just in case you're wondering)!

And instead of a Bishop's mitre, they could wear those stupid beer hats with straws poking out of the sides (Quite "manly", if you ask me).

And not only will women not be allowed to speak or teach in their church, but there won't even be a "Church" in the first place. Instead, it'll be called a "Fraternity" -- With women forbidden within 100 yards of the premises.

Point being, I wish that these "guys" (I don't even want to give them the dignity of calling them that) would just create a new religion and stay away from Christianity. They can have their One Line Boy's Club Bible, they can have their wife beaters, and they can have their beloved beer hats -- but they should stay away from and never mention Jesus Christ (for their own safety, at the very least).

These are probably the same type of kooks who said "Praise the Lord, and pass the ammunition!"

And much like the views that once justified racism because of the "Curse of Ham" (and many did just that), so will the modern conservative "Christian's" view on gender equality dissipate from it's own stupidity, irrelevancy, and inherent destructiveness. In fact, there's no need for my "rage" here. These ideals about gender, just like older ideals about race, are already in the process of dying -- Whether I or anyone else rages about them or not. Anything that is that self-evidently idiotic is going to be that much widely rejected. It's a worthless vision of the Bible, of God, of Christianity, of Society, of Men and Women -- and therefore it will die on it's own. It is not Good News -- It is Bad News. It is not Gospel.

The sooner they're gone, the better. Having one less group of jerks trying to sabotage and hijack Jesus Christ's vision of Love and Justice for the world is always a good thing. It's the story of history, and this will eventually be another chapter in the process.

NOW....On a more serious note (if you've made it this far), let me just make a humble request that there are more posts made about other translation and linguistic issues other than the gender "debate" -- Because it isn't a debate at all. This should be a done deal, as far as scholarship (and plain and simple common sense) is concerned. The more you debate with these type of arguments, the more you going to get in a "rage" -- And in turn, the more you're going to sound like I just did in this post (and you wouldn't want that now, would you? ;) ).

Somebody had to say it though...

At Tue Feb 21, 04:51:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

I note the following in the response on the ESV blog to Witherington's blog post: "The ESV developed from this perceived need, not as a reaction to other Bible publishers’ doings or to meet the Colorado Springs Guidelines. // Crossway explored some specific possibilities in the early 1990s, but without success. Then, some five or six years later, Crossway initiated the idea for what became the ESV." What I would be interested to know is, does "the early 1990s" plus "five or six years" take us to before or after the issuing of the Colorado Springs Guidelines in May 1997? If in fact "Crossway initiated the idea for what became the ESV" shortly after these guidelines were issued, even if the idea had been floated before, and considering the large overlap between the Colorado Springs signatories and the ESV translation team, it seems hard to avoid the conclusion that the successful initiation of the project was in some way a reaction to the guidelines. And of course this would tie up well with Wayne's memory of what Dr Grudem said about this matter.

I also found interesting the list of ESV renderings of all the dative plural instances of ἄνθρωπος anthrōpos. Yes, there is some improvement here over RSV, but why is it so inconsistent? Why "men" (or "man" or "mankind") at Matthew 9:8, 19:26, Mark 10:27, Luke 2:52, 16:15, 18:27, Acts 5:4,29, Romans 14:18, 1 Corinthians 3:21, 4:9, 14:2, Galatians 1:10, Ephesians 4:8, 6:7, Colossians 3:23, 1 Thessalonians 2:4,15, where the contrast is clearly with God or with angels rather than with women? Why "men" in Luke 12:36 - would this master not have female as well as male slaves? Why "men" in Acts 4:12, as if Jesus' name was not also made known to women? Does Hebrews 9:27 not mean that women also die and are judged? As for 2 Timothy 2:2, see my recent posting on this verse. I note also that the Colorado Springs Guidelines accept that "In many cases, anthropoi refers to people in general, and can be translated "people" rather than "men."", so these guidelines cannot be used by the ESV team as an excuse for their inconsistent renderings of the plural of ἄνθρωπος anthrōpos.

At Wed Feb 22, 12:16:00 PM, Blogger Denny Burk said...

Good critique of my post. I think you are correct that I over-generalized. I'm going to reword my post.

My main point, however, is that "men" is not a "mistranslation" of ANTHROPOI, as Witherington alleges. It's still an acceptable rendering, though perhaps one might claim that it's a bit dated because of changes in English. Perhaps I should say that the mature English reader will likely recognize the older idiom.

For my part, I think it's perfectly acceptable to translate ANTHROPOI as "people." That's no big deal. I just think it's incorrect to charge "mistranslation" against those who might render it with "men" from time to time. English usage has changed, but not that much.

At Wed Feb 22, 12:17:00 PM, Blogger Denny Burk said...

Egad! I just read Straylight's comment. Who's he accusing of Bible rage?

At Wed Feb 22, 01:52:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Denny said:

My main point, however, is that "men" is not a "mistranslation" of ANTHROPOI, as Witherington alleges. It's still an acceptable rendering, though perhaps one might claim that it's a bit dated because of changes in English. Perhaps I should say that the mature English reader will likely recognize the older idiom.

Nice response, Denny. I think that over-statements are far too often made. I'm guilty of it, as well. What Ben should be saying is that "men" is not an accurate translation of anthropoi for those people who understand "men" only to refer to male adults. It is not commonly understood, but translation accuracy is always relative to the understandings of meanings of the translated text. And different audiences have different understandings, due to language change, different dialects, educational background, etc.

One size doesn't fit all, when it comes to Bible versions.

At Fri Feb 24, 09:15:00 PM, Blogger Gummby said...

Peter, my guess (and this is just a guess) is that it may be due to the fact that some on the committee don't see a problem with using man & people interchangeably. That might be the same reason I missed that "inconsistency."

At Tue Feb 19, 05:54:00 AM, Blogger Russ Davis said...

I'm grieved at vaunted experts like professional "linguists" who pride themselves on Gnostic-like special knowledge (as seen in Nida's many errors resulting from his similar egoism; I prefer the godly and biblical humility of John Piper's "Brothers, We Are Not Professionals") so vacuous as to imagine to refute the irrefutable fact that EVERYONE knows about universal he/man/men as proven by even liberal leftist feminist scams like the NYT using it. This demonic delusion of ego, like in the Garden is of course the usual rebellion against God and His order really just a lying propaganda ploy to subvert the language for "politically correct" purposes as with the abortion and sodomy hoaxes (the "homosex" fraud, arsenokoitai and malakoi of 1 Cor 6:9 & 1 Tim 1:10 sadly mistranslated by most modern English translations as "homosex-" which fraud is ably refuted by "The 'gay' invention" at ably refutes all the irrational and groundless feminist hysteria that is the source of most of the promotion of the gender-acccurate/genger-neutral feminazi scheme, merely female chauvinism proven in countless venues, lying through their teeth, sadly all too often even to themselves, as Romans 1, especially 1:28, makes clear about how God gives up rebels like today's rebellious synergists (exposed at over to the destructive delusions of reprobate minds which is often indistinguishable from no minds at all. It's kind of like the "hate Bush" crowd. I voted against Bush twice because as a Christian I still think he's dangerous for our country, only marginally pro-life and Christianity, but I know there's a big difference between that and those who can't give a reasonable answer for why they oppose or hate him. I have yet to encounter an opponent of universal he/men who on the subject don't have the same mentality as those who hate Bush, even if they're quite lucid on other subjects, and I'm including theologians, scholars and NT profs, which proves that but for the grace of God, there go I. God save us all and drive us to our knees and grant us the miracle of repentance that only You can give.


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