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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Advent translation #6: ESV Luke 1:53

Today Rich Shields, an ESV user, blogged on how odd Luke 1:53 is worded in the ESV. The problem started with the KJV, and was retained by the ERV, ASV, RSV, and ESV translators (the NASB, NKJV, and NRSV translators, also in the KJV tradition, fixed the problem). Here is the RSV and ESV wording:
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent empty away
Do you hear the problem? If not, read Rich's post.

I am glad that there are people who like the ESV. But I am baffled by how many say that it reads so well, when it has so much odd English, such as that found in Luke 1:53 and elsewhere, as I have partially documented. It's as if the ESV translators focused on making the RSV theologically conservative but forgot to check whether its English was grammatical, proper, or natural. I don't see how the ESV can ever become a "standard" English version until its English is upgraded to standard English. The HCSB, which is a "complementarian" (with grammatically masculine generics) Bible version, like the ESV, reads far better than the ESV.


At Thu Dec 28, 07:15:00 AM, Blogger said...

I enjoy your blog, especially posts, like this one, which offer critical glimpses of translation oddities of particular translations. After reviewing each of the translations for myself, I continue to prefer the NKJV for my primary reading and study, though I regularly consult many translations.

Would you consider starting a post asking readers to offer their criticisms of the NKJV?

Thanks again for your blog.

Bill Blue
Perry, FL

At Thu Dec 28, 07:39:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

I also find "the rich he has sent empty away" strange, but the meaning I get out of it, apart from the context, is that the rich people whom God has sent empty(verb) away, like an upturned bottle might empty away - presumably a metaphor for them gradually losing their possessions.

At Thu Dec 28, 09:51:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Would you consider starting a post asking readers to offer their criticisms of the NKJV?

Bill, we try to do that already with our invitation at the very top of our blog page. Anyone can click on NKJV in the right margin and offer criticisms of its translation wordings. Some have already.

At Thu Dec 28, 02:34:00 PM, Blogger exegete77 said...

Howdy, Wayne. Just to clarify my use of the ESV: I use several translations for preparing Bible studies, in addition to the original language texts. ESV is one of them, but I personally prefer the combination of NAS, NKJV, HCSB, and GW. However, the congregation where I teach has now started using the ESV for Sunday readings - because Concordia Publishing House began using ESV on the back of the bulletins beginning with Advent 1 Sunday (four weeks ago). And CPH used the ESV as the base for the liturgical sections of the new hymnal published in August (Lutheran Service Book - LSB)

In the past couple of years I was encouraged by the ESV translation because of its "standardized" liturgical texts (i.e. Ps. 116:12-13, 17-19, Ps. 136:1, Is. 6:3, John 6:68 etc.). However, the more I have read the ESV (about 1/2, so far), the less I like it. I find it not as easy to read as NAS and NKJV, which are usually considered "choppy". Could I teach using the ESV? Yep, just like I can with other translations. But I would use it with caution.

Given my exposure to the ESV over the past year (through private reading/devotion and some teaching), I would definitely state that the NKJV is a much better liturgical translation.

Rich Shields

At Sat Dec 30, 05:40:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Wayne wrote: "I am glad that there are people who like the ESV." Well, that may be a nice polite thing to say. But it is also rather strange. If ESV is as bad a translation as you claim, can you really be glad that people like a bad translation? Or is your point in fact that maybe for some people it is a good translation because it is written in what is for them good English?

At Sat Dec 30, 07:48:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Peter asked:

If ESV is as bad a translation as you claim, can you really be glad that people like a bad translation?

I'm actually glad when people find a translation that they like and use it. *I* would not use the ESV. I consider that its English quality is quite poor. But others do not share my sensitivities about the English quality in the ESV. Some actually like the sound of the ESV. To them it probably sounds like a Bible, because it is in the Tyndale-KJV tradition. I would prefer that people use another version, such as the HCSB, which has the same masculine-gendered generics, if that is important to someone. But people have different preferences and I try to live and let live, while still expressing my opinions.


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