“Moving Back to the ESV”

“When I was using the ESV for teaching I found myself having to explain what the English translation meant more often. Obviously, this stems from the more formal translation philosophy of the ESV. When I started teaching from the NIV, I found myself having to explain the English translation less, as the NIV does a great job of clearly rendering the meaning of individual words and phrases in English. But I kept having difficulty showing linguistic and structural connections that are unseen in the English translation because of the clear English rendering.

Here’s and example: In Judges the phrase “in his/their eyes” is used often throughout the book and the phrase links lots of themes and narratives together in plot and characterization. The NIV does a great job of rendering the idiomatic meaning of the final phrase in Judge 21.25 “everyone did as they saw fit”. That is what the text means. However, this does not allow the reader to see the connection with the  “in his/their eyes” as the ESV’s “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” does. I found it much easier to explain what the idiom “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” than to try to explain how “everyone did as they saw fit” connects to the other translations of that phrase in Judges.  Now I think the NIV expresses the meaning of the text better, but the ESV allows me to explain and more importantly show in the English text the connections of this important phrase.

This does not mean I dislike the new NIV, on the contrary I think it is an excellent translation and I am very grateful for it.  The more I teach the more I realize how important it is to recognize and utilize the strengths in each translation. The strength of the NIV is its rendering of the meaning of individual English words and phrases. The strength of the ESV is the ability to see linguistic and structural connections. Since much of my teaching is done on a literary level, I have decided to use the ESV as my standard translation; but I will refer to NIV probably just as much to offer a clearer English rendering.” read more, bold added

This is according to Daniel Doleys, who blogs here.

Daniel is one of the few bloggers who keeps me honest in the few biblical language posts that I do from time to time.  I do appreciate his insights in these matters.  But this came as a bit of a surprise to me.

Yes, I do agree with his general assessment of both the NIV and the ESV, with the former offering “a clearer English rendering” and the latter being more “linguistically and structural[ly]” faithful.  Of course all this comes down to the translation philosophy adopted.

From time to time, I do appreciate the “linguistic and structural connections” in a translation like the ESV, which of course makes it a difficult and awkward read at times.  But if we’re talking about faithfully transferring the underlying meaning of the original to its target language with both readability and accuracy, then I tend to favor a middle of the road translation like the updated NIV2011.

For example, while the ESV is more structurally faithful to the Greek text at 2 Timothy 4:1, for the English reader, the NIV’s rearrangement captures the intended emphasis more so than the ESV.

But to each their own. 😉

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Bible Translations, Bibles, ESV, NIV Bible 2011, Updated NIV and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to “Moving Back to the ESV”

  1. Peter Kirk says:

    This guy is simply showing that he doesn’t understand how language work and doesn’t understand the ESV. “In [someone’s] eyes” is not an “important phrase” indicating “linguistic and structural connections”. It appears so in a literal English translation because it is unusual English which would be used, if at all, with some special significance. But in Hebrew it is a very normal and unmarked phrase with no special importance. “As they saw fit” is an excellent rendering of the Hebrew behind “what was right in his own eyes”. But any attempt to tie this up with other cases of “in [someone’s] eyes” is misguided, as poor linguistics and poor theology. I’m sorry to say this, but by returning to ESV Daniel is simply helping himself continue to teach and preach badly.

    • “I’m sorry to say this, but by returning to ESV Daniel is simply helping himself continue to teach and preach badly.”

      Peter,
      Whatever your thoughts on translations are that seems a little harsh. In addition, I think you might look again at the use of ‏בעין in Judges. It occurs in six different spots in the narrative of the book showing the connection of Israel’s sin with the failure of the judges, Block connects it specifically with 17.6, while Younger specifically with 19.24.

      Also, please notice that I did say “The NIV does a great job of rendering the idiomatic meaning of the final phrase in Judge 21.25 “everyone did as they saw fit”. That is what the text means.” My point is that such a rendering does not allow for the that collocation of ‏בעין to be seen in the English.

      • Peter Kirk says:

        Daniel, I was of course using a bit of hyperbole for effect. I have no way of checking your six references as I can’t find a Hebrew text searchable for consonants only. But I was interested to find that ESV is by no means consistent in rendering such phrases, using “right in his own eyes” in 17:6, 21:25 but “evil in the sight of the LORD” in 2:11 etc for essentially the same Hebrew phrase.

        I suppose you refer to 14:3,7, 17:6 and 21:25 where ESV uses the “eyes” phrase. You also mention 19:24 where ESV omits “eyes”. I guess 10:15 is the sixth example, again not “eyes” in ESV. I agree that this is a significant theme in Judges and one which can properly be taught and preached on. It would indeed be good for a Bible to be consistent in these six cases. But ESV does no better than NIV on this.

      • Jordan Doty says:

        I know that the HCSB has its own potential quirks and consistencies to deal with (ex. problematic interchange of Messiah and Christ – even though HCSB often uses ‘Messiah’ to show title/function when other translations fail to render “the Christ” rather than just “Christ” as a name – Col. 3:1-4), and I know that the HCSB’s structure is not quite as formal as the ESV, but in this particular case with the Book of Judges’ “eyes” references (chs. 14, 17, 19, 21) the HCSB consistently translates all of them as whatever “I/he/you want/wants/wanted.” That’s nice, even though it does miss any possible connecting reference to “the sight of the Lord” (ESV), or “the Lord’s sight” (HCSB).

        I do love the idea of the NIV 2011 being a mediating or “middle of the road” translation between most translations, but I also like the idea of the HCSB being a mediating “middle of the road” translation between the ESV and NIV. While one of the HCSB’s weaknesses is that it doesn’t always flow with the Tyndale stream when used for public preaching/teaching, that is also one of its strengths, dropping such tradition if another way seems more clear or accurate today. Once again, keeping [much] theological jargon with modern English is a nice change of pace.

      • Peter Kirk says:

        Luke, thanks for your comments. My comment here was in response to T.C.’s post, not to the parts of Daniel’s which he did not quote. I admitted that my language was a bit stronger than was fully justified. But I do want to sound strong, if not harsh, against people who abuse “literal” translations in the ways I described in my post. Perhaps Daniel was not actually doing this, but my initial reading of T.C.’s post suggested that he was. You are welcome to discuss these issues further on my blog.

    • Luke Geraty says:

      This guy is simply showing that he doesn’t understand how language work and doesn’t understand the ESV… I’m sorry to say this, but by returning to ESV Daniel is simply helping himself continue to teach and preach badly.

      Wow. I don’t think “harsh” is quite “harsh” enough to characterize this response.

      • T.C. R says:

        Luke,

        In all fairness to Peter, I think you should consider his follow up post on his blog. More explanation there.

      • Luke Geraty says:

        I got to be honest. I still don’t find such an overstatement helpful. Peter’s point may stand, but it sure seems a leap to go from “[you’re] helping [yourself] continue to teach and preach badly” to ‘here are some things to consider.

        Read Daniel’s post and you get an entirely different attitude. In fact, he states, “This does not mean I dislike the new NIV, on the contrary I think it is an excellent translation and I am very grateful for it.” Nor does he make a judgment against those who utilize other translations.

        Great points, poor choice of words, in my opinion.

      • Luke Geraty says:

        By the way, I should add that I generally like what you write Peter 😉 So if I sound harsh, forgive me!

  2. Ronnie Daly says:

    Though the NIV 2011 is a “middle of the road” translation, I am finding
    that it is sometimes more “structurally faithful” to the underlying
    source text than the ESV. It is also more understandable than the ESV,
    and has moved slightly closer to “formal equivalent” renderings. I have
    also discovered that the NIV 2011 sometimes takes note of the finer
    points in translation and includes the important connectives and inferential
    particles that are ommitted in the ESV. (Examples: compare Acts 1:21;
    2 Cor. 5:6; Phil. 2:6; 2 Pet. 3:17 in both versions to the Greek text.)

  3. Dan says:

    I find myself trying to slip away from the NIV2011 from time to time, so I pick up a NRSV and read. Then, on the day I am reading the NRSV I will run across a phrase that just doesn’t translate well in the NRSV, so I pick up the NIV and read and it is much clearer.

    Then, I drift away from the NIV again and pick up the ESV. And again, there will be some awkward way of wording something that when I pick up the NIV they’ve worked the phrase much better for reading.

    The reason I try the NRSV or the ESV more regularly is I also want to keep the Deuterocanonical Books close at hand and the NIV doesn’t translate those. However, as a pastor looking for a GOOD translation that read well in public, I keep coming back to the NIV2011. It is such an improvement over the 1984 edition and I’ve found it’s just a great “default” translation for me.

  4. TC,
    “But if we’re talking about faithfully transferring the underlying meaning of the original to its target language with both readability and accuracy, then I tend to favor a middle of the road translation like the updated NIV2011.”

    I would agree with here in terms of individual phrases, clauses and words but there is also meaning on the macro-structure of a book that sometimes cannot be seen without a consistent translation of a single phrase or word. I think בעין in Judges is a good example. I think you even recognize this in your desire to always see sarx translated with the same word throughout the Pauline epistles, even though it takes on different parts of its semantic domain in different contexts.

    I think the ESV and the NIV are equally faithful to the meaning of the text, just in different ways, one mirco and another macro. Neither could do both so as I said I am really happy to have both.

  5. T.C. R says:

    Ronnie,

    Yes, the NIV11 is actually more “structurally faithful” at times. I believe it has struck a good balance.

    Dan,

    I’ve done that same back and forth with the same trio, but I’ve found the NIV11 not only clearer of the three but also can be quite “formal” at times, as Ronnie above noted.

    Yes, for all practical purposes, I lean toward the NIV11.

    |”… but there is also meaning on the macro-structure of a book that sometimes cannot be seen without a consistent translation of a single phrase or word.”|

    Daniel,

    Point taken. Yes, this is something that I look for too. But as you know, there’s no consistently faithful translation to the critical “eye.”

  6. I’m with Daniel on this one. My literary bent it to see the broader structures (ea. chiasms, repeated phrases, et. al.) One of my biggest peaves is how the old NIV messed up the intensity and rhythm of the multiple uses of the adverb translated “immediately” in ESV with “at once,” “without delay,” “when,” “just then,” ‘as soon as,” and in a couple of places leaving the adverb untranslated. Really messes up Mark’s intent in my view. Don’t know how the NIV 2011 handles it. But I appreciate Daniel’s point. It’s easy to miss the forest for the trees.

    • Jordan Doty says:

      I have been looking through the first five chapters of Mark in the ESV, HCSB 2009, and NIV 2011, and while the ESV seems to translate all of the “immediately”s consistently, the HCSB translates it as “immediately about 50 to 60% of the time (best guess), using “as soon as,” “just then,” “instantly,” “at once,” and “at this,” for the other occurences. The NIV 2011 uses “immediately” three times in Mark 1-5, and the rest are translated in other ways.

      I do admit that the formal ESV does well “concordantly,” although I have noticed as I study through 1-2 Corinthians that the ESV misses some concordant opportunities while the HCSB picks them up on some of those opportunites. I am as conflicted as everyone else about these tensions, but also grateful for so many english translations to work with!

  7. Sue says:

    It is not at all logical to expect one Greek word to be translated by one English word. How would we understand such a translation? It would be impossible. Therefore, there is only a difference in degree between the ESV and NIV.

    But of more concern is the fact that mature preachers sometimes misunderstand the ESV altogether as you can see in this discusssion about shooting in the dark.

    “Firstly, in the second half of the verse in Psalm 11:2, the NIV did not have enemies “shooting in the dark” (as in the ESV) but enemies shooting “from the shadows”. This ruined one of my sub-points and an illustration. I had some fine purple prose ready to flow forth about how the enemies, unlike God, were just as much in the dark about what they were shooting at, as their righteous target was in the dark about where the enemies were shooting from.”

    http://solapanel.org/article/a_preachers_near_blunder/

    So, for me, it is far more important for readers to at least understand the plain sense and then they can use software if they want later to get all the nuances.

  8. Pingback: Literal Bible translations: crutches for bad teachers? - Gentle Wisdom

  9. T.C. R says:

    |Great points, poor choice of words, in my opinion.|

    Luke,

    I do agree that Peter overstated somethings here. He admits to this. It’s a bit of an overreaction, given the ESV-camp.

    • Luke Geraty says:

      Ah ha!

      I am just becoming more and more frustrated with overstatements! ha ha.

      And that’s coming from a Calvinistic Continuationist who preaches and teaches using the ESV most of the time (and the NLT too, because I love it)…

      Both “camps” seem to do some pretty good overstating… 🙂

      • T.C. R says:

        As you know, it’s really up to the individual and what they are looking for in a translation.

        And I’ve found that there are no perfect translations. Try as we may, every translation is going to frustrate us one way or the other. But a person has to find that one that he/she can preach, teach, and memorize from. Stuff like that.

  10. Jordan Doty says:

    I echo what T.C. is saying. Every translation has strengths and weaknesses for some many different reasons, but you need to find the one that you can “live with” – with your personal relationship with God, with your community relationship in the church, with your ministry in the church, and with your ministry in the world. Could it all be found in one? That would be neat, and make it easier to memorize(!), but more likely it will be found in several, in addition to the wonderful Hebrew/Greek tools and Study Bibles out there. With the Holy Spirit to guide us, and historical Christianity to remind us, I hope we are the better for being blessed with so many wonderful options…

  11. Luke Geraty says:

    I think it’s good that we have both “formal” and “dynamic” translations. I’m also glad that the original languages are becoming more accessible for the general populace!

  12. Jordan Doty says:

    Agreed with Luke. In our student ministry I use a combo of the HCSB (2009) and NLT (2007). I could just use the NIV 2011 and go right up the middle, which is a nice one-for-all solution, but using a formal/dynamic combo, like ESV/NLT or HCSB/NLT, helps us to see some cool things in Scripture. This past Wednesday we took our students through the basic idea of translation, the formal/dynamic strategy, what our church uses and why, and how to help them decide what to get. We started and ended with Scripture for the night – why God has inspired it and what it is inspired for (Make us wise for salvation in Christ, and prepare us to be equipped for every good work). It’s living and effective (HCSB), alive and powerful (NLT)!

  13. Pingback: Literal Bible translations: crutches for bad teachers? « Better Bibles Blog

  14. Pingback: Literal Bible translations: crutches for bad teachers? « Better Bibles Blog

  15. dailywhitt says:

    Over the years, I’ve memorized several verses, even chapters in the NIV1984. I’m wondering what the next 20 years will hold. Should I attempt to relearn all those passages in the 2011 edition? The changes made are probably just enough to be irritating for re-memorization! I told my wife that I didn’t feel old when I hit 40 last year. What made me feel old was the NIV update, and the fact that I didn’t like them tinkering with my Bible! 🙂 I actually do like the way the update reads out loud, except for the switch between singular and plural to avoid gender.

    I’ve also wondered what direction to take my children. I want them to have an accurate, understandable, powerful and effective Bible to commit to memory. Any thoughts for those who have committed muchos versos of the 1984 to memory?!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s