“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. 😉