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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

the International Standard Version (ISV)

Suzanne quoted from the ISV in her preceding post. The International Standard Version (ISV) is one of the best English versions to have been produced in the past 20 or so years. Unfortunately, it has not gotten the public attention that it deserves. It is truly a "professional" translation, with obvious marks of careful attention paid to exegesis as well as English quality. I have been evaluating the ISV since it first became available as a translation of the New Testament. I have lamented the fact that it has taken longer than hoped to complete translation of the Old Testament.

The ISV tries to bring out the aspectual differences among the Greek tenses, similar to how Williams did in his New Testament translation many years ago, but more naturally than Williams did.

Unlike most recently produced "moderately literal" translations, the ISV shows clear care that not only are the biblical languages honored through careful exegesis, but the English language is also. The ISV reads like it was produced by people who speak and write English well. My guess is that its New Testament editor, David Alan Black, a Greek professor, had significant influence upon the difficult process of matching the meanings of Greek linguistic forms to natural English translation equivalents. I was first attracted to Black's unusual (among Greek professors) literary abilities for translating Greek well when I read his book Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek: A Survey of Basic Concepts and Applications. I examined the ISV to see if Black's application of common sense linguistic insights in his book influenced the translation wordings in the ISV, and I'm convinced it did. I wish that every exegete on every English Bible translation team could take a workshop from Dr. Black on how to combine good exegesis with good English.

But Professor Black was not alone in creating the good quality of the ISV New Testament. William Welty, who has led and championed the ISV project over the years, has brought a passion for precision in translation that has been married well with Black's work in the New Testament. I would like to have been a mouse in the corner observing the two of them, as well as others on their translation committee, discuss the translation wordings.

I have had a few quibbles with the ISV, as I have with all English versions (some more than others). But this is a version that deserves more than it has gotten in recognition so far. It should be used more widely than it is.

And I hope that its Old Testament can be completed, and will evidence the same kind of attention to careful exegesis and good quality English that its New Testament translation does. A number of OT books have already been translated and they are done well.

1 Comments:

At Wed May 17, 09:50:00 AM, Blogger M. J. Mansini said...

I agree that the ISV NT is well done and deserves to be used more frequently by some of us, however, your comment that "... it has taken longer than hoped to complete translation of the Old Testament..." is precisely the reason that I have not moved it into the candidacy for "primary" translation around here. The New Testament alone is good, but requires that I have two bibles around (at least) until the OT is completed. However, when the OT is finished, I will be first in line to purchase myself a print copy (I can't stand electronic copies... I can only read eBooks for about 15 minutes before I'm wishing I had something in my hands).

 

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