2 Peter 1:21 in TNIV and ESV
For now I will just make one point here. Adrian has reproduced 2 Peter 1:21 from the ESV reverse interlinear and on this basis has made an accusation about
the terrible laxness with the actual WORDS of the text that the TNIV shows in the rest of this verse. This is immediately apparent when you look at the reverse interlinear of the ESV version. The text itself does not say “prophecy never had its origin” — it says “no prophecy was ever produced.” The text does not say “prophets though human spoke from God” — instead it says “men (or if you prefer, people!) spoke from God.” The word “prophet” is nowhere to be found in the Scriptures here.The problem is that Adrian is reading the reverse interlinear on the assumption that ESV is actually a perfect literal rendering of the Greek, when it is not. This reverse interlinear distorts, even biases, his whole view of the text.
Actually the Greek text does not say “no prophecy was ever produced”, or even a literal Greek equivalent of that. The ESV "no" has been paired with the Greek οὐ ou, but this Greek word does not mean "no" (a negative adjective - that would be οὐδείς oudeis) but "not". The more literal rendering is “prophecy was not ever produced,” or “prophecy was never produced.” That's getting more like TNIV.
Now I don't want to defend TNIV's “prophets, though human”. I understand Adrian's objection to this, which is a helpful clarification but not one which has a part in an essentially literal translation like ESV. (My opinions about essentially literal translations are well known, so I won't repeat them here.) But let's look and see if there is any further basis for Adrian's more general accusation that TNIV is showing "terrible laxness with the actual WORDS of the text".
For this, and to avoid the bias necessarily introduced by a reverse interlinear, I have prepared my own non-reverse interlinear of the Greek text (no relevant textual issues here), ESV and TNIV for 2 Peter 1:21:
|ESV:||no2||For1||by the will7-9||of man,10-11|
|TNIV:||never3||For1||will,10||in the human7-9|
|had its origin4-6||prophecy2||-|
|but12||by22||the Holy23-24||Spirit25||as they were carried along17-21|
|but11||by23||the Holy24-25||Spirit26||as they were carried along18-22|
|spoke15||from16||God17||prophets, though human,12-14|
If we ignore the very last part of this, TNIV's “prophets, though human”, the ESV and TNIV look remarkably similar, don't you think? It would take an extreme literalist pedant to complain that TNIV has combined "not... ever" into one word "never". I can understand that some don't like TNIV's "the human will", but even apart from gender issues that is decidedly better than "the will of man", which suggests to me some kind of corporate will of the entire human race. Why (since Greek has no indefinite article) did ESV not render "the will of a man"? Could it be that they were in fact too embarrassed to make the passage so clearly male-oriented, without support from the Greek, and so tried for generic "man" without the article which is still understandable as gender generic? But then maybe they just copied KJV.
Well, my conclusion here is that there is little to choose between ESV and TNIV on this verse, even if judged by the literalist standards Adrian is applying, as long as those standards are applied in an unbiased manner. The only reasonable point of objection to TNIV is “prophets, though human”, but the difference between ESV and TNIV here comes from their different overall translation philosophy.